Publication Abstracts

O'Neill et al. 1994

O'Neill, B.C., S.R. Gaffin, F.N. Tubiello, and M. Oppenheimer, 1994: Reservoir timescales for anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere. Tellus, 46B, 378-389, doi:10.1034/j.1600-0889.1994.t01-4-00004.x.

Non-steady state timescales are complicated and their application to specific geophysical systems requires a common theoretical foundation. We first extend reservoir theory by quantifying the difference between turnover time and transit time (or residence time) for time-dependent systems under any mixing conditions. We explicitly demonstrate the errors which result from assuming timescales are equal, which is only true at steady state. We also derive a new response function which allows the calculation of age distributions and timescales for well-mixed reservoirs away from steady state, and differentiate between timescales based on gross and net fluxes. These theoretical results are particularly important to tracer-calibrated "box models" currently used to study the carbon cycle, which usually approximate reservoirs as well-mixed. We then apply the results to the important case of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, since timescales describing its behavior are commonly used but ambiguously defined. All relevant timsecales, including lifetime, transit time, and adjustment time, are precisely defined and calculated from data and models. Apparent discrepancies between the current, empirically determined turnover time of 30-60 years and longer model-derived estimates of expected lifetime and adjustment time are explained within this theoretical framework. We also discuss the results in light of policy issues related to global warming, in particular since any comparison of the "lifetimes" of different greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs etc.) must use a consistent definition to be meaningful.

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BibTeX Citation

  author={O'Neill, B. C. and Gaffin, S. R. and Tubiello, F. N. and Oppenheimer, M.},
  title={Reservoir timescales for anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere},

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RIS Citation

ID  - on01000b
AU  - O'Neill, B. C.
AU  - Gaffin, S. R.
AU  - Tubiello, F. N.
AU  - Oppenheimer, M.
PY  - 1994
TI  - Reservoir timescales for anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere
JA  - Tellus
VL  - 46B
SP  - 378
EP  - 389
DO  - 10.1034/j.1600-0889.1994.t01-4-00004.x
ER  -

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