BACKGROUND: Elevated temperature and reduced water availability are frequently linked abiotic stresses that may provoke distinct as well as interacting molecular responses. Based on non-targeted metabolomic and transcriptomic measurements from Arabidopsis rosettes, this study aims at a systematic elucidation of relevant components in different drought and heat scenarios as well as relationships between molecular players of stress response. RESULTS: In combined drought-heat stress, the majority of single stress responses are maintained. However, interaction effects between drought and heat can be discovered as well; these relate to protein folding, flavonoid biosynthesis and growth inhibition, which are enhanced, reduced or specifically induced in combined stress, respectively. Heat stress experiments with and without supplementation of air humidity for maintenance of vapor pressure deficit suggest that decreased relative air humidity due to elevated temperature is an important component of heat stress, specifically being responsible for hormone-related responses to water deprivation. Remarkably, this "dry air effect" is the primary trigger of the metabolomic response to heat. In contrast, the transcriptomic response has a substantial temperature component exceeding the dry air component and including up-regulation of many transcription factors and protein folding-related genes. Data level integration independent of prior knowledge on pathways and condition labels reveals shared drought and heat responses between transcriptome and metabolome, biomarker candidates and co-regulation between genes and metabolic compounds, suggesting novel players in abiotic stress response pathways. CONCLUSIONS: Drought and heat stress interact both at transcript and at metabolite response level. A comprehensive, non-targeted view of this interaction as well as non-interacting processes is important to be taken into account when improving tolerance to abiotic stresses in breeding programs. Transcriptome and metabolome may respond with different extent to individual stress components. Their contrasting behavior in response to temperature stress highlights that the protein folding machinery effectively shields the metabolism from stress. Disentangling the complex relationships between transcriptome and metabolome in response to stress is an enormous challenge. As demonstrated by case studies with supporting evidence from additional data, the large dataset provided in this study may assist in determining linked genetic and metabolic features as candidates for future mechanistic analyses.