What is Dial-A-Buoy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Dial-A-Buoy is a service maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States. This service allows people to call a central hotline to get information from ocean buoys and regional weather observation centers. Fishermen, surfers, and other mariners all greatly benefit from the Dial-A-Buoy system, getting up-to-date information on weather conditions which can determine the way in which they schedule their days. This information is also available on the NOAA website, and through NOAA radio broadcasts.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

As of 2008, the Dial-A-Buoy phone number is: 888-701-8992. This number works anywhere in the United States, with callers being prompted to dial one if they know the buoy they wish to retrieve data from, or two to select a buoy using latitude and longitude coordinates. Once a buoy's identification number has been entered, Dial-A-Buoy's automatic operator will provide the latest data from that particular buoy.

When you use the service, you do not actually call a physical buoy. You call the NOAA's central administration center, which records the data from regional weather stations and buoys. The data is typically no more than an hour old, providing accurate and useful information about prevailing weather conditions. The service also allows you to check on multiple buoys by following prompts.

When you call Dial-A-Buoy, you will get information about the direction, speed, and gust of the wind, along with wave height, swell, and period. The service also provides the most recent air and water temperature readings, and additional information of interest may be provided, depending on the buoy. Using this information, people can make a decision about whether or not it is safe to go out.

Proponents of the program claim that it has saved lives, by allowing mariners to confirm that conditions are too dangerous to go out onto the water. In particular danger spots, signs near the water may actually encourage people to call Dial-A-Buoy before they commit to going out. Surfers appreciate the service because it allows them to check on prevailing conditions before they commit to going out. When a surfer lives inland, Dial-A-Buoy can save a pointless trip.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Q -- Why do NOAA and USPHS officers wear the military uniform?

A -- Because NOAA and USPHS officers are members of the Uniformed Services, of which there are seven.

The five armed services plus NOAA and USPHS comprise the seven Uniformed Services:

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard

NOAA -- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

USPHS -- US Public Health Service.

Example, before TRICARE, there was CHAMPUS, the former name for the military’s civilian health care program. CHAMPUS – Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services. Jersey Joe

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