Subsurface temperatures around the world are changing in response to accelerated surface atmospheric temperature (SAT) rise, but are also impacted by other natural and anthropogenic changes in surface environmental conditions which alter the surface energy balance. Improved understanding of the latter influences is important for geothermal climate applications and to generate a comprehensive knowledge-framework of subsurface warming, including inherent spatial variability. Here I examine sixteen wells in a relatively small area in The Netherlands, each with two available temperature logs recorded some three decades apart. Temperature differences of the log pairs reveal marked differences in subsurface warming amongst the wells for this time period. Forward modelling of the observed temperature changes, using surface air temperature (SAT) forcing, shows that a considerable part of this inter-site variability may be caused by inter-site differences in thermal properties and groundwater flow conditions. However, for some of the wells these factors are insufficient, implying contributions from non-SAT-driven changes in ground surface temperature (GST). In one case an anomalous decrease in GST can be linked to back-growth of the canopy after forest cutting. For another well site, GST warming has been less than SAT warming in the absence of apparent changes in surface conditions, indicating local, subtle influences on the surface energy balance independent of SAT. The results demonstrate that repeated borehole temperature logging resolves key uncertainties and ambiguities pertaining to interpretation of individual temperature logs. The study further highlights the importance of establishing high-quality borehole temperature databases, also for these relatively complex settings with dynamic and variable surface conditions. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.