Hourly SST (sea surface temperature) fields from the geostationary Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) offer a unique opportunity for the characterisation and quantification of the diurnal cycle of SST in the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the northern European shelf seas. Six years of SST fields from SEVIRI are validated against the Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) Reprocessed for Climate (ARC) data set. The overall SEVIRI–AATSR bias is −0.07 K, and the standard deviation is 0.51 K, based on more than 53×106 matchups. Identification of the diurnal signal requires an SST foundation temperature field representative of well-mixed conditions which typically occur at night-time or under moderate and strong winds. Such fields are generated from the SEVIRI archive and are validated against pre-dawn SEVIRI SSTs and night-time SSTs from drifting buoys. The different methodologies tested for the foundation temperature fields reveal variability introduced by averaging night-time SSTs over many days compared to single-day, pre-dawn values. Diurnal warming is most pronounced in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas while weaker diurnal signals are found in the tropics. Longer diurnal warming duration is identified in the high latitudes compared to the tropics. The maximum monthly mean diurnal signal can be up to 0.5K in specific regions.