To date, the understanding of the role buoyancy plays in the entrainment process in unstable configurations such as turbulent plumes remains incomplete. Towards addressing this question, we set up a flow in which a plume evolves in time instead of space. We demonstrate that the temporal problem is equivalent to a spatial plume in a strong coflow and address in detail how the temporal plume can be realized via direct numerical simulation. Using numerical data of plume simulations up to Re휆≈100, we show that the entrainment coefficient can be determined consistently using a global entrainment analysis in an integral framework as well as via a local approach. The latter is based on a study of the local propagation of the turbulent/non-turbulent interface relative to the fluid. Locally, this process is dominated by small-scale diffusion which is amplified by interface convolutions such that the total entrained flux is independent of viscosity. Further, we identify a direct buoyancy contribution to entrainment by baroclinic torque, which accounts for 8 %–12 % of the entrained flux locally, comparable to the 15 % buoyancy contribution at the integral level. It appears that the baroclinic torque is a mechanism that might explain higher values of the entrainment coefficient in spatial plumes compared with jets.