Recently, the rate of urbanisation has accelerated due to increasing population density which causes unexpected environmental disturbances and problems. One of the major problems encountered to date is the change in the land use/cover (LULC) structure. Increasing the impervious surface cover has changed microclimatic properties of urbanised areas by altering their thermal characteristics. One of the most important problems facing urban planning today is the phenomena known as the urban heat island (UHI), which is largely due to the changing the character of LULC. In this study, to create a national picture of the UHI structure in Turkey, seven cities, namely Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara, Izmir, Gaziantep, Erzurum and Trabzon, each located in different climatic regions of Turkey, were investigated. The Gaussian fitting technique was applied to characterise the UHI effect in the seven cities in the study. An original contribution of the current study was that the rural reference temperature surface was automatically determined by a proposed algorithm including the automatic masking of input data, as well as the application of iterative Gaussian low-pass filtering during the fitting procedure. Within this context, the daytime and nighttime surface urban heat island (SUHI) effect was modelled and temporally analysed from 1984 to 2011 for all the sub-regions using remote sensing techniques. Furthermore, atmospheric UHI was also investigated using the mobile transect method. The findings from this study suggest that UHI is a major environmental problem in urbanised areas, both atmospheric UHI and SUHI were detected in all cities in the study area, and this problem was found to have rapidly increased from 1984 to 2011. Finally, as inferred from the multiple regression results, it can be concluded that the UHI problem in Turkey might have resulted from the altered LULC structure, as well as anthropogenic pressure on and interference in city planning geometries.