This study examined the hormonal and thermal responses of two groups of subjects during 16 days in the Arctic (mean temperature -26.8 degrees C). One group (NPA) received no prior cold exposure, whereas the second group (PA) was subjected to nine daily immersions (20-40 min) in cold water (15 degrees C) 20 days before the Arctic exposure. Nude cold tolerance tests (cold air at 10 degrees C) were administered to both groups before and after the Arctic exposure. The NPA group showed an increase in metabolism and rectal temperature, whereas the PA group showed no elevation in metabolism and a decrease in rectal temperature. In the Arctic significant daily increases over the control period of urine volume (+86%), urinary norepinephrine (+48%), epinephrine (+84%), and 17-hydroxycorticosteroids (+34%) occurred in the NPA group. Only epinephrine (+65%) increased in the PA group. The hormonal and thermal responses of the NPA group in the Arctic were characteristic of metabolic adaption, whereas those in the PA group were suggestive of a hypothermic type of adaptation or habituation with no evidence of sympathetic or adrenocortical stimulation. The hormonal and thermal responses observed in this study indicate that a degree of cold resistance can be induced rapidly in humans by short intermittent exposures to an intense cold stress, which persists for a significant period of time after the last exposure.