Possible Mitigation of Global Cooling due to Supervolcanic Eruption via
Intentional Release of Fluorinated Gases
Supervolcanic eruptions induced abrupt global cooling (roughly at a rate
of ~1ºC/year lasting for years to decades), such as the
prehistoric Yellowstone eruption released, by some estimates, SO2 about
100 times higher than the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption. An abrupt global
cooling of several ºC, even if only lasting a few years, would present
immediate and drastic stress on biodiversity and food production -
posing a global catastrophic risk to human society. Using a simple
climate model, this paper discusses the possibility of counteracting
supervolcanic cooling with the intentional release of greenhouse gases.
Although well-known longer-lived compounds such as CO2 and CH₄ are found
to be unsuitable for this purpose, select fluorinated gases (F-gases),
either individually or in combinations, may be released at gigaton scale
to offset most of the supervolcanic cooling. We identify candidate
F-gases (viz. C4F6 and CH3F) and derive radiative and chemical
properties of ‘ideal’ compounds matching specific cooling events.
Geophysical constraints on manufacturing and stockpiling due to mineral
availability are considered alongside technical and economic
implications based on present-day market assumptions. The consequences
of F-gas release in perturbing atmospheric chemistry are discussed in
the context of those due to the supervolcanic eruption itself. The
conceptual analysis here suggests the possibility of mitigating certain
global catastrophic risks via intentional intervention.