Abstract Relationships between leaf area index (LAI) and midday soil heat flux/net radiation ratio (G/R n) and two more commonly used vegetation indices (VIs) were used to analytically derive formulas describing the relationship between G/R n and VI. Use of VI for estimating G/R n may be useful in operational remote sensing models that evaluate the spatial variation in the surface energy balance over large areas. While previous experimental data have shown that linear equations can adequately describe the relationship between G/R n and VI, this analytical treatment indicated that nonlinear relationships are more appropriate. Data over bare soil and soybeans under a range of canopy cover conditions from a humid climate and data collected over bare soil, alfalfa, and cotton fields in an arid climate were used to evaluate model formulations derived for LAI and G/R n, LAI and VI, and VI and G/R n. In general, equations describing LAI-G/R n and LAI-VI relationships agreed with the data and supported the analytical result of a nonlinear relationship between VI and G/R n. With the simple ratio (NIR/Red) as the VI, the nonlinear relationship with G/R n was confirmed qualitatively. But with the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), a nonlinear relationship did not appear to fit the data.