Right now, there is one burning question on your mind, and I know it’s “What the heck is corn sweat?” The week’s extreme heat wave is blistering the middle section of the United States, where excess moisture from corn fields will evaporate and add an unwanted boost of humidity (called ‘corn sweat’) to the already uncomfortable levels. With temperatures expected to rise up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above average in some places, meteorology experts say the phenomenon will happen more often as global warming worsens.

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The U.S. is in the midst of a severe heat wave, and it’s hitting the central and eastern parts of the country especially hard. The proverbial ‘they’ are famous for saying “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity,” and in this case, it’s the darned truth. Scorching temps are plaguing most of the country this week, with the heat index rocketing into triple digits. Warm, moist air blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico combines with the corn sweat phenomenon to create a particularly miserable cocktail of heat and humidity in the Midwest, which is reflected in the heat index of what forecasters say will be the hottest summer on record.

Related: Flame-colored NOAA map paints a picture of this week’s toasty heat wave

As the effects of climate change wreak havoc on the planet, one of the outcomes is increasing levels of humidity, particularly during intense summer heat waves. Meteorologists have predicted that the next few decades will see this weather trend increase in severity and expand to impact even more areas, elevating the public health concerns associated with heat waves. Extreme heat is already one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths, particularly among the elderly and homeless populations, and the death tolls are likely to rise as the temperatures continue to soar.

Via Mashable

Images via Shutterstock and USDA