Land cover and land use influence surface climate through differences in biophysical surface properties, including partitioning of sensible and latent heat (e.g., Bowen ratio), surface roughness, and albedo. Clusters of closely spaced eddy covariance towers (e.g., <10km) over a variety of land cover and land use types provide a unique opportunity to study the local effects of land cover and land use on surface temperature. We assess contributions albedo, energy redistribution due to differences in surface roughness and energy redistribution due to differences in the Bowen ratio using two eddy covariance tower clusters and the coupled (land-atmosphere) Variable-Resolution Community Earth System Model. Results suggest that surface roughness is the dominant biophysical factor contributing to differences in surface temperature between forested and deforested lands. Surface temperature of open land is cooler (−4.8°C to −0.05°C) than forest at night and warmer (+0.16°C to +8.2°C) during the day at northern and southern tower clusters throughout the year, consistent with modeled calculations. At annual timescales, the biophysical contributions of albedo and Bowen ratio have a negligible impact on surface temperature, however the higher albedo of snow-covered open land compared to forest leads to cooler winter surface temperatures over open lands (−0.4°C to −0.8°C). In both the models and observation, the difference in mid-day surface temperature calculated from the sum of the individual biophysical factors is greater than the difference in surface temperature calculated from radiative temperature and potential temperature. Differences in measured and modeled air temperature at the blending height, assumptions about independence of biophysical factors, and model biases in surface energy fluxes may contribute to daytime biases.