Abstract. Climatic change as a result of the greenhouse effect is widely predicted to increase mean temperatures globally and, in turn, increase the frequency with which plants are exposed to heat shock conditions, particularly in the semi-arid tropics. The consequences of extreme high-temperature treatments on plants have been considered, particularly in relation to the synthesis of heat shock proteins (HSPs) and the capacity to acquire thermotolerance. The heat shock response is described using results obtained with seedlings of the tropical cereals, sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). A gradual temperature increase, as would occur in the field, is sufficient to induce thermotolerance. The synthesis of HSPs is a transient phenomenon and ceases once the stress is released. Despite the persistence of the HSPs themselves, de novo synthesis of HSPs is required for the induction of thermotolerance each time high temperatures are encountered. The effect of a repeated, diurnal heat shock was investigated and genotypic differences found in the ability to induce the heat shock response repeatedly.