Soil heat flux is one of the important components of surface energy balance. In this study, long-term estimation of soil heat flux from single layer soil temperature was carried out by the traditional sinusoidal analytical method and the half-order time derivative method of Wang and Bras [Wang and Bras (1999) J Hydrol 216:214-226]. In order to understand the characteristics of soil heat flux and to examine the performances of the two methods, a field experiment was conducted at a temperate and humid grassland in Cork, Ireland. Our results show that the soil heat flux had the same magnitude as the sensible heat flux at this grassland site. It was also demonstrated that the analytical method did not predict the soil heat flux well because the sinusoidal assumption for the temporal variation in soil heat flux was invalid. In contrast, good agreement was found between the soil heat flux measurements and predictions made by the half-order time derivative method. This success suggests that this method could be used to estimate soil heat flux from long-term remotely sensed surface temperature.