The application of local periodic heating for control of a spatially developing shear layer downstream of a finite-thickness splitter plate is examined by numerically solving the two-dimensional Navier–Stokes equations. At the trailing edge of the plate, an oscillatory heat flux boundary condition is prescribed as the thermal forcing input to the shear layer. The thermal forcing introduces a low level of oscillatory surface vorticity flux and baroclinic vorticity at the actuation frequency in the vicinity of the trailing edge. The vortical perturbations produced can independently excite the fundamental instability that accounts for shear layer roll-up as well as the subharmonic instability that encourages the vortex pairing process farther downstream. We demonstrate that the nonlinear dynamics of a spatially developing shear layer can be modified by local oscillatory heat flux as a control input. We believe that this study provides a basic foundation for flow control using thermal-energy-deposition-based actuators such as thermophones and plasma actuators.