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Lack of instrument sensitivity to low electron density (Ne) concentration makes it difficult to measure sharp Ne vertical gradients (four orders of magnitude over 30 km) in the D/E-region. A robust algorithm is developed to retrieve global D/E-region Ne from the high-rate GNSS radio occultation (RO) data, to improve spatiotemporal coverage using recent SmallSat/CubeSat constellations. The new algorithm removes F-region contributions in the RO excess phase profile by fitting a linear function to the data below the D-region. The new GNSS-RO observations reveal many interesting features in the diurnal, seasonal, solar-cycle, and magnetic-field-dependent variations in the Ne morphology. While the D/E-region Ne is a function of solar zenith angle (χ), it exhibits strong latitudinal variations for the same χ with a distribution asymmetric about noon. In addition, large longitudinal variations are observed along the same magnetic field pitch angle. The summer midlatitude Ne and sporadic E (Es) show a distribution similar to each other. The distribution of auroral electron precipitation correlates better with the pitch angle from the magnetosphere than from one at 100 km. Finally, a new TEC retrieval technique is developed for the high-rate RO data with a top reaching at least 120 km. For better characterization of the E- to F-transition in Ne and more accurate TEC retrievals, it is recommended to have all GNSS-RO acquisition routinely up to 220 km.


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Remote Sensing