Two-dimensional (2D) materials have recently been incorporated into resistive memory devices due to their atomically thin nature, but their switching mechanism is not yet well understood. Here we study bipolar switching in MoTe2-based resistive memory of varying thickness and electrode area. Using scanning thermal microscopy (SThM), we map the surface temperature of the devices under bias, revealing clear evidence of localized heating at conductive “plugs” formed during switching. The SThM measurements are correlated to electro-thermal simulations, yielding a range of plug diameters (250 to 350 nm) and temperatures at constant bias and during switching. Transmission electron microscopy images reveal these plugs result from atomic migration between electrodes, which is a thermally-activated process. However, the initial forming may be caused by defect generation or Te migration within the MoTe2. This study provides the first thermal and localized switching insights into the operation of such resistive memory, and demonstrates a thermal microscopy technique that can be applied to a wide variety of traditional and emerging memory devices.