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A perspective on time: loss frequencies, time scales and lifetimes

Prather, M., and C. D. HolmesA (2013), A perspective on time: loss frequencies, time scales and lifetimes, Environ. Chem., 10, 73-79.

Diagnostic quantities involving time include loss frequency, decay times or time scales and lifetimes. For the Earth’s system or any of its components, all of these are calculated differently and have unique diagnostic properties. Local loss frequency is often assumed to be a simple, linear relationship between a species and its loss rate, but this fails in many important cases of atmospheric chemistry where reactions couple across species. Lifetimes, traditionally defined as total burden over loss rate, are mistaken for a time scale that describes the complete temporal behaviour of the system. Three examples here highlight: local loss frequencies with non-linear chemistry (tropospheric ozone); simple atmospheric chemistry with multiple reservoirs (methyl bromide) and fixed chemistry but evolving lifetimes (methyl chloroform). These are readily generalised to other biogeochemistry and Earth system models. Additional keywords: chemical modes, eigenvalues, global warming potentials.

Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)