The Aquarius end-of-mission (Version 5) salinity data set was released in December 2017. This article gives a comprehensive overview of the main steps of the Level 2 salinity retrieval algorithm. In particular, we will discuss the corrections for wind induced surface roughness, atmospheric oxygen absorption, reflected galactic radiation and side-lobe intrusion from land surfaces. Most of these corrections have undergone major updates from previous versions, which has helped mitigating temporal and zonal biases. Our article also discusses the ocean target calibration for Aquarius Version 5. We show how formal error estimates for the Aquarius retrievals can be obtained by perturbing the input to the algorithm. The performance of the Aquarius Version 5 salinity retrievals is evaluated against salinity measurements from the ARGO network and the HYCOM model. When stratified as function of sea surface temperature or sea surface wind speed, the difference between Aquarius Version 5 and ARGO is within ±0.1 psu. The estimated global RMS uncertainty for monthly 100 km averages is 0.128 psu for the Aquarius Version 5 retrievals. Finally, we show how the Aquarius Version 5 salinity retrieval algorithm is adapted to retrieve salinity from the Soil-Moisture Active Passion (SMAP) mission.
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