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6.4.1.5. Restoring Carbon Cycle Equilibrium

As for the climate system, the rate at which the carbon cycle, and more specifically the atmospheric reservoir of CO2, adjusts to a new equilibrium in response to a forcing perturbation depends upon both the time scale of the forcing and the response period of the relevant components within the system.

The atmospheric adjustment time of CO2 depends on the different time constants of the various carbon reservoirs (Watson et al., 1990). A relatively rapid adjustment (years) takes place between the atmosphere, the surface oceans and the terrestrial biosphere when anthropogenic CO2 is added to the atmosphere. However, the long-term response of the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to anthropogenic emissions depends primarily on the processes that control the rate of storage of CO2 in the deep ocean, which have characteristics time scales of several decades to centuries (Watson et al., 1992).