The reported overall rise in global surface temperatures since the latter 19th Century is viewed largely as an atmospheric phenomena. However, we show that the global ocean is an important component in determining global surface temperatures. Via an empirical, mathematical methodology, we reveal the intrinsic modes of variability of planetary temperatures over the past 160 years, and find periods of cooling and warming, with multiple modes of variability; seasonal, inter-annual, decadal, multi-decadal and an overall warming trend. Our calculated overall rate of warming differs significantly from the estimate of the Intergovernmental Program on Climate Change, as well as the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We also investigate the modes of variability of recognized climate factors, and find a previously unreported 140 year cycle in two climate system data sets. A relatively large amplitude 60 – 70 year cycle mode appears in all of the climate factors, and may be related to the time scale of the oceanic Meridional Overturning Circulation. This and other oceanic features may modulate global surface temperatures. An empirical relationship between fossil fuel burning and the global surface temperature anomaly time series overall trend emerges from our reduction of the non-stationary, non-linear data.