Global environmental change has influenced lake surface temperatures, a key driver of ecosystem structure and function. Recent studies have suggested significant warming of water temperatures in individual lakes across many different regions around the world. However, the spatial and temporal coherence associated with the magnitude of these trends remains unclear. Thus, a global data set of water temperature is required to understand and synthesize global, long-term trends in surface water temperatures of inland bodies of water. We assembled a database of summer lake surface temperatures for 291 lakes collected in situ and/or by satellites for the period 1985-2009. In addition, corresponding climatic drivers (air temperatures, solar radiation, and cloud cover) and geomorphometric characteristics (latitude, longitude, elevation, lake surface area, maximum depth, mean depth, and volume) that influence lake surface temperatures were compiled for each lake. This unique dataset offers an invaluable baseline perspective on global-scale lake thermal conditions as environmental change continues.