This study is concerned with the intrinsic temporal scales of the variability in the surface solar irradiance (SSI). The data consist of decennial time series of daily means of the SSI obtained from high-quality measurements of the broadband solar radiation impinging on a horizontal plane at ground level, issued from different Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) ground stations around the world. First, embedded oscillations sorted in terms of increasing timescales of the data are extracted by empirical mode decomposition (EMD). Next, Hilbert spectral analysis is applied to obtain an amplitude-modulation–frequency-modulation (AM–FM) representation of the data. The time-varying nature of the characteristic timescales of variability, along with the variations in the signal intensity, are thus revealed. A novel, adaptive null hypothesis based on the general statistical characteristics of noise is employed in order to discriminate between the different features of the data, those that have a deterministic origin and those being realizations of various stochastic processes. The data have a significant spectral peak corresponding to the yearly variability cycle and feature quasi-stochastic high-frequency variability components, irrespective of the geographical location or of the local climate. Moreover, the amplitude of this latter feature is shown to be modulated by variations in the yearly cycle, which is indicative of nonlinear multiplicative cross-scale couplings. The study has possible implications on the modeling and the forecast of the surface solar radiation, by clearly discriminating the deterministic from the quasi-stochastic character of the data, at different local timescales.