Pulsed light–current characteristics of InGaN/GaN quantum well light-emitting diodes have been measured as a function of temperature, with sublinear behavior observed over the whole temperature range, 130–330 K. A distinctive temperature dependence is also noted where the light output, at a fixed current, initially increases with temperature, before reaching a maximum at 250 K and then decreases with subsequent increases in temperature. On the basis of a drift diffusion model, we can explain the sublinear light–current characteristics and the temperature dependence by the influence of the large acceptor ionization energy in Mg-doped GaN together with a triangular density of states function characteristic of localized states. Without the incorporation of localization effects, we are unable to reproduce the temperature dependence whilst maintaining emission at the observed wavelength. This highlights the importance of localization effects on device performance. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.