Dial-A-Buoy gives mariners an easy way to obtain weather reports when away from a computer/the Internet. Wind and wave measurements taken within the last hour at buoy and coastal weather stations operated by NDBC and a growing number of Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOSŪ) partners can be heard using a cell phone. NDBC, a part of the National Weather Service (NWS), created Dial-A-Buoy in 1997. In 2007, NDBC and the National Ocean Service's Center for Operational Ocean Products and Services (NOS/CO-OPS) jointly implemented a replacement for the original system which had operated well beyond its expected life cycle. The new system is an extension of the Great Lakes Online service that NOS/CO-OPS is expanding to include its National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON) stations.|
Large numbers of boaters use the observations, in combination with forecasts, to make decisions on whether it is safe to venture out. Some even claim that the reports have saved lives. Surfers use the reports to see if wave conditions are, or will soon be, promising. Many of these boaters and surfers live well inland, and knowing the conditions has saved them many wasted trips to the coast.
Buoy reports include wind direction, speed, gust, significant wave height, swell and wind-wave heights and periods, air temperature, water temperature, and sea level pressure. Some buoys report wave directions. Coastal weather stations report the winds, air temperature, and pressure; some also report wave information, water temperature, visibility, and dew point. .