We have directly measured the carrier temperature in semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs) via spontaneous emission and we demonstrate an unexpectedly high carrier temperature. The direct correlation of the temperature increase with the carrier density suggests Auger recombination as the main heating mechanism. We have developed a model based on rate equations for the total energy density of electrons, holes, and longitudinal-optical phonons. This model allows us to explain the thermal behavior of carrier and phonon populations. The strong heating observed is shown to be due to the combined effects of hot phonon and Auger recombination in the valence band. We also observe an evolution of the Auger process, as the density is increased, from cubic to square dependence with coefficients C-3 = 0.9 10(-28) cm(6) s(-1) and C-2 = 2.4 10(-10) cm(3) s(-1). This change is explained by the hole quasi-Fermi level entering the valence band.