National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - National Data Buoy Center


FLC Region

Security Lab



Building 3205
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529
United States

Laboratory Representative


During the 1960's, approximately 50 individual programs were conducted by a variety of ocean-oriented agencies. In March 1966, the Ocean Engineering Panel of the Interagency Committee on Oceanography recommended that the United States Coast Guard (USCG) investigate the feasibility of a consolidated national data buoy system. As a result of that investigation, the National Council for Marine Research Resources and Engineering Development endorsed the formation of the National Data Buoy Development Program (NDBDP) in 1967. The NDBDP was created and placed under the control of the USCG.

In 1970, NOAA was formed and the NOAA Data Buoy Office (NDBO) was created within the National Ocean Service (NOS) and located in Mississippi. In 1982, the NDBO was renamed NDBC and was placed under NOAA's National Weather Service. The first buoys deployed by NDBC were the large 12-m discus hulls constructed of steel. These were generally deployed in deep water off the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The measurements taken by sensors onboard these buoys were surface measurements of pressure, temperature, and wind speed and direction. NDBC also devised a system of 10-m discus hulls that were less expensive to build and easier to maintain than the larger 12-m hulls. These stations were primarily funded by the NWS and were used to deliver scheduled observations to forecasters for predicting weather and issuing warnings. After some time, wave measurements were added to the surface meteorological measurements. By 1979, 16 stations were deployed in the Pacific, 7 in the Atlantic, and 3 in the Gulf of Mexico. Eight more stations were deployed in the Great Lakes after 1979.

NDBC has also designed and deployed aluminum hulls. The advantages of these hulls are their cost effectiveness and transportability. Their smaller size and lighter weight allow for land transfer by truck. The boat-shaped hull developed by the U.S. Navy, called the Naval Oceanographic and Meteorological Automated Device (NOMAD), is an example of this aluminum hull design. These hulls are less costly to build and maintain and are as sturdy in high seas as the 12-m discus hulls.

NDBC, in connection with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, developed a smaller 3-m discus hull for use in less harsh conditions, such as in the coastal zone. NDBC has also been involved in the design, testing, evaluation, production, deployment, and operation of drifting buoys for the past 20 years.

In 1982, in conjunction with the USCG's Lighthouse Automation and Modernization Program (LAMP), NDBC installed its first fixed station for the Coastal-Marine Automated Network (C-MAN). Its design allows for flexibility in terms of sensor requirements, data access, and installation demands. These C-MAN stations collect the weather observations that would have been lost when the USCG removed the station keepers from the coastal lighthouses under LAMP. Besides the baseline measurements of wind speed and direction, air temperature, and barometric pressure, measurements of continuous winds, relative humidity, precipitation, visibility, solar radiation, ocean currents at depth, sea water salinity, underwater light intensity, and others can be made. In 2013 NDBC undertook a strategic new direction to evolve to a new, very compact family of small, self-contained and sealed ocean observations payloads that could be deployed on existing on new smaller buoy hulls as well as on land-based towers or ships. The SCOOP (Self Contained Ocean Observations Payload) Project was funded to recapitalize the network of specialized weather buoys tat NDBC operates in support of hurricane forecasting and nowcasting. Eventually, SCOOP is intended to replace the 3-meter weather buoys.


NDBC provides comprehensive, reliable systems and marine observations to support the forecasts and warnings missions of the National Weather Service (NWS) and NOAA, to save lives and property. NDBC's major missions include the weather/hurricane buoys network, C-MAN coastal station network, TAO Buoy Network that supports ENSO forecasting, and DART Buoy Network that provides open-ocean measurement of Tsunamis.

Technology Disciplines

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Smart Module for Communications Processing and Interface
Wave Measurement Device for Moored Buoy

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