Persistent spring and summer northerly surface winds are the defining climatological feature of the western coast of North America, especially south of the Oregon coast. Northerly surface winds are important for upwelling and a vast array of other biological, oceanic, and atmospheric processes. Intermittence in northerly coastal surface wind is characterized and wind events are quantitatively defined using coastal buoy data south of Cape Mendocino on the northern California coast. The defined wind events are then used as a basis for composites in order to explain the spatial evolution of various atmospheric and oceanic processes. Wind events involve large-scale changes in the three-dimensional atmospheric circulation including the eastern North Pacific subtropical anticyclone and southeast trade winds. Composites of QSCAT satellite scatterometer wind estimates from 1999 to 2005 based on a single coastal buoy indicate that wind events typically last 72-96 h and result in anomalies in surface wind and Ekman pumping that extend over 1000 kin from the west coast of North America. It may be useful to consider ocean circulation and dependent ecosystem dynamics and the distribution of temperature, moisture, and aerosols in the atmospheric boundary layer in the context of wind events defined herein. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.