Measuring the temperature profile of a nanoscale sample using scanning thermal microscopy is challenging due to a scanning probe's non-uniform heating. In order to address this challenge, we have developed a calibration sample consisting of a 1-μm wide gold wire, which can be heated electrically by a small bias current. The Joule heating in the calibration sample wire is characterized using noise thermometry. A thermal probe was scanned in contact over the gold wire and measured temperature changes as small as 0.4 K, corresponding to 17 ppm changes in probe resistance. The non-uniformity of the probe's temperature profile during a typical scan necessitated the introduction of a temperature conversion factor, η, which is defined as the ratio of the average temperature change of the probe with respect to the temperature change of the substrate. The conversion factor was calculated to be 0.035 ± 0.007. Finite element analysis simulations indicate a strong correlation between thermal probe sensitivity and probe tip curvature, suggesting that the sensitivity of the thermal probe can be improved by increasing the probe tip curvature, though at the expense of the spatial resolution provided by sharper tips. Simulations also indicate that a bow-tie metallization design could yield an additional 5- to 7-fold increase in sensitivity. © 2013 American Institute of Physics.