nuclear winter

noun
the general devastation of life, along with worldwide darkness and extreme cold, that some scientists believe would result from a global dust cloud screening out sunlight following large-scale nuclear detonations.

Origin:
1980–85

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World English Dictionary
nuclear winter
 
n
a period of extremely low temperatures and little light that, it has been suggested, would occur as a result of a nuclear war

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

nuclear winter definition


A theory first put forward in 1983 predicting that a large-scale nuclear exchange would produce enough smoke and soot to lower the temperature of the Earth significantly. Subsequent calculations indicated that the climatic effects would be much less than had originally been claimed, leading to the use of the term nuclear autumn to describe the phenomenon.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
As if there weren't enough reasons to for the world to get rid of nuclear
  weapons, here's another one: nuclear winter.
Nuclear winter was over, but global warming was here, and the ideological
  categories got thoroughly scrambled.
The sky turned a blackish purple, as if the city were enduring a nuclear winter.
The nuclear winter fear was that debris from a nuclear war would block
  sunlight, bringing on a new ice age or worse.
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