We have investigated the thermal stability of GaN using Raman scattering, Noninvasive optical monitoring of the degradation of GaN during high-temperature processing has been demonstrated. GaN samples grown by molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) and metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy (MOCVD) were studied. Characteristic features in the Raman spectrum identify three thermal stability regimes: (I) annealing below 900 degrees C does not affect the GaN Raman spectrum; (2) annealing between 900 degrees C and 1000 degrees C results in the appearance of disorder-induced Raman scattering between the E-2 and A(1)(LO) phonon; (3) annealing at temperatures higher than 1000 degrees C gives rise to distinct Raman modes at 630 cm(-1), 656 cm(-1) and 770 cm(-1). The evolution of the Raman spectrum of GaN with increasing annealing temperature is discussed in terms of disorder-induced Raman scattering. We find clear indications for an interfacial reaction between GaN and sapphire for annealing temperatures higher than 1000 degrees C.