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nuclear winter,theory holding that the smoke and dust produced by a large nuclear war would result in a prolonged period of cold on the earth. The earliest version of the theory, which was put forward in the early 1980s in the so-called TTAPS report (named for last initials of its authors, Richard P. Turco, Owen B. Toon, Thomas P. Ackerman, James B. Pollack, and Carl Sagan), held that the ensuing low temperatures and prolonged periods of darkness would obliterate plant life and seriously threaten the existence of the human species. Later models, which took into account additional variables, confirmed the basic conclusions of the TTAPS report and suggested that the detonation of 100 megatons (the explosive power of 100 million tons of TNT) over 100 cities could produce temperature drops ranging from 5 to 15 degrees.
nuclear winter[′nü·klē·ər ′win·tər]
Predicted global-scale changes resulting from a nuclear war, in which dust raised by nuclear bursts and smoke generated in fires would cause reductions in solar energy reaching the earth's surface and reductions in surface temperatures for periods of months.
a period of extremely low temperatures and little light that has been suggested would occur as a result of a nuclear war