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I've been mining a lot of cobblestone because I don't know how else to look for iron. In the meanwhile, this bar has appeared on my screen, and has been steadily depleting.

enter image description here

What does this bar represent? What happens when it gets empty?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

That is your body temperature. When it gets low enough, the screen will start fading to white. If it empties, you will freeze to death.

Temperature varies depending on the planet you are on, the biome you are in, and whether it is day or night. To warm up, you can enter a structure, equip warmer armor (denoted by the sun symobl), or build a fire.

Torches work pretty well for this, so since you are only slowly losing heat (you only have one green arrow in your pic, if you were losing heat faster you would have multiple green arrows) drop a torch or two and huddle around until you are warmer.

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And this is why every underground section of every world I visit is littered with little caves containing a single wooden bed with a torch hovering just above it. – Zibbobz Jan 28 '14 at 14:42
Never forget to wear a winter armor :L (or what ever the one you make from leather is) – user1337 Feb 10 '14 at 17:56

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