In this paper we study the close relationship between the radiometric calibration of a satellite instrument and the Absorbing Aerosol Index (AAI) derived from the observed Earth reflectance. Instrument degradation of the Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY) instrument in the ultraviolet wavelength range is examined by analyzing time series of global means of the AAI, making use of the experience that the global mean should be more or less constant when instrument degradation is absent. The analysis reveals the magnitude of the (scan angle dependent) instrument degradation of SCIAMACHY and also shows that currently available correction techniques are not able to correct the instrument degradation in a sufficient manner. We therefore develop and introduce a new method for degradation correction, which is based on the analysis of the time evolution of the global mean reflectance. Seasonal variations in the global mean reflectance, which mainly result from seasonal variations in scattering geometry and global cloud coverage, are separated from the time series in order to isolate the instrument degradation. Finally, we apply the derived reflectance correction factors to the SCIAMACHY reflectances and calculate the AAI to find that the effects of instrument degradation are reduced to within the 0.1 index point level. The derived AAI is also compared with the AAI based on other correction techniques. The proposed in-flight reflectance degradation correction method performs best in all aspects. © 2012 by the American Geophysical Union.