The occurrence of a thermal anomaly before an earthquake has been widely reported in the last 20 years. In these reports, Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) night-time data are the most widely used data, and the distance between the thermal anomaly and the epicentre is about 100-1000 km. Here we use Multi-functional Transport Satellite (MTSAT) -1R geostationary data, with high temporal resolution and surface air temperature data, to study the thermal anomaly before the Zhangbei earthquakes in China. The combination of these two datasets showed some advantages over AVHRR and MODIS data - they are less affected by clouds, while the surface air temperature difference showed a good relation between the epicentre and thermal anomaly. Their distance is less than 100 km. This provides a possible way to estimate future epicentres within reasonable errors.