Time domain studies of Active Galactic Nuclei with the Square Kilometre Array
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Variability of radio-emitting active galactic nuclei can be used to probe both intrinsic variations arising from shocks, flares, and other changes in emission from regions surrounding the central supermassive black hole, as well as extrinsic variations due to scattering by structures in our own Galaxy. Such interstellar scattering also probes the structure of the emitting regions, with microarcsecond resolution. Current studies have necessarily been limited to either small numbers of objects monitored over long periods of time, or large numbers of objects but with poor time sampling. The dramatic increase in survey speed engendered by the Square Kilometre Array will enable precision synoptic monitoring studies of hundreds of thousands of sources with a cadence of days or less. Statistics of variability, in particular concurrent observations at multiple radio frequencies and in other bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, will probe accretion physics over a wide range of AGN classes, luminosities, and orientations, as well as enabling a detailed understanding of the structures responsible for radio wave scattering in the Galactic interstellar medium.