Two formulations of the surface thermal boundary condition commonly employed in numerical modelling of atmospheric stably stratified surface-layer flows are evaluated using analytical considerations and observational data from the Cabauw site in the Netherlands. The first condition is stated in terms of the surface heat flux and the second is stated in terms of the vertical potential temperature difference. The similarity relationships used to relate the flux and the difference are based on conventional log-linear expressions for vertical profiles of wind velocity and potential temperature. The heat-flux formulation results in two physically meaningful values for the friction velocity with no obvious criteria available to choose between solutions. Both solutions can be obtained numerically, which casts doubt on discarding one of the solutions as was previously suggested based on stability arguments. This solution ambiguity problem is identified as the key issue of the heat-flux condition formulation. In addition, the agreement between the temperature difference evaluated from similarity solutions and their measurement-derived counterparts from the Cabauw dataset appears to be very poor. Extra caution should be paid to the iterative procedures used in the model algorithms realizing the heat-flux condition as they could often provide only partial solutions for the friction velocity and associated temperature difference. Using temperature difference as the lower boundary condition bypasses the ambiguity problem and provides physically meaningful values of heat flux for a broader range of stability condition in terms of the flux Richardson number. However, the agreement between solutions and observations of the heat flux is again rather poor. In general, there is a great need for practicable similarity relationships capable of treating the vertical turbulent transport of momentum and heat under conditions of strong stratification in the surface layer.