Blazars display strong variability on multiple timescales and in multiple radiation bands. Their variability is often characterized by power spectral densities (PSDs) and time lags plotted as functions of the Fourier frequency. We develop a new theoretical model based on the analysis of the electron transport (continuity) equation, carried out in the Fourier domain. The continuity equation includes electron cooling and escape, and a derivation of the emission properties includes light travel time effects associated with a radiating blob in a relativistic jet. The model successfully reproduces the general shapes of the observed PSDs and predicts specific PSD and time lag behaviors associated with variability in the synchrotron, synchrotron self-Compton, and external Compton emission components, from submillimeter to γ-rays. We discuss applications to BL Lacertae objects and to flat-spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs), where there are hints that some of the predicted features have already been observed. We also find that FSRQs should have steeper γ-ray PSD power-law indices than BL Lac objects at Fourier frequencies ≲ 10–4 Hz, in qualitative agreement with previously reported observations by the Fermi Large Area Telescope.
BL Lacertae objects: general - galaxies: active - galaxies: jets - quasars: general - radiation mechanisms: non-thermal