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Geographic coordinate system

Geographic coordinate system

The geographic coordinate system enables every location on the Earth to be exactly specified.

Geography

Keywords

geographic coordinate system, line of latitude, longitude, Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, Earth, western hemisphere, eastern hemisphere, major lines of latitude, International Date Line, Arctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, Antarctic Circle, coordinate system, geography

Related items

Scenes

Globe

Lines of latitude

Starting point: 0° = Equator
Hemispheres: northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere
Direction: east-west
Circumference/length: shorter towards the poles
Relative position to each other: parallel to each other
Counting: 90° to north and to south; full circles

Lines of longitude

Starting point: 0° = Prime Meridian
Hemispheres: eastern hemisphere, western hemisphere
Direction: north-south
Circumference/length: equal
Relative position to each other: convergent, they cross each other at the poles
Counting: 180° to east and to west; semicircles

Definitions:

Geographic coordinate system: The system of circles of latitude and longitude on the globe, it enables every location on the Earth to be exactly specified.

Lines of latitude: Components of the geographic coordinate system, imaginary circles on the surface of Earth, parallel to the Equator. If the shape of the Earth is approximated by a sphere or a spheroid, the intersection of this shape and a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation gives the circles of latitude.

Lines of longitude: Components of the geographic coordinate system, imaginary semicircles on the surface of Earth, going through the poles and perpendicular to the Equator.

Major lines of latitude: Arctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, Antarctic Circle.

Major lines
of latitude

  • northern hemisphere
  • southern hemisphere
  • Prime Meridian (0º)
  • western hemisphere
  • eastern hemisphere
  • 23,5º
  • 66,5º
  • North Pole
  • Arctic Circle
  • Tropic of Cancer
  • Equator
  • Tropic of Capricorn
  • Antarctic Circle
  • South Pole

Prime
Meridian

  • northern hemisphere
  • southern hemisphere
  • Prime Meridian (0º)
  • western hemisphere
  • eastern hemisphere
  • International Date Line (180°)

Lines of
latitude

  • 10º
  • 20º
  • 30º
  • 40º
  • 50º
  • 60º
  • 70º
  • 80º
  • 90º
  • North Pole
  • Arctic Circle
  • Tropic of Cancer
  • Equator
  • Tropic of Capricorn
  • Antarctic Circle
  • South Pole

Lines of
longitude

  • northern hemisphere
  • southern hemisphere
  • Prime Meridian (0º)
  • western hemisphere
  • eastern hemisphere
  • International Date Line (180°)
  • 10º
  • 20º
  • 30º
  • 40º
  • 50º
  • 60º
  • 70º
  • 80º
  • 90º
  • 100º
  • 110º
  • 120º
  • 130º
  • 140º
  • 150º
  • 160º
  • 170º
  • 180º

Coordinate
system

  • International Date Line (180°)
  • 10º
  • 20º
  • 30º
  • 40º
  • 50º
  • 60º
  • 70º
  • 80º
  • 90º
  • 100º
  • 110º
  • 120º
  • 130º
  • 140º
  • 150º
  • 160º
  • 170º
  • 180º
  • 23,5º
  • 66,5º

Derivation of the
lines of latitude

  • Arctic Circle (66.5º N)
  • Tropic of Cancer (23.5º N)
  • Tropic of Capricorn (23,5º S)
  • Antarctic Circle ( 66.5º S)
  • 23,5º
  • 66,5º

Derivation of the
lines of longitude

  • Equatorial diameter: 12,756.3 km
  • Equatorial circumference: ca. 40,076 km
  • 10º
  • 20º
  • 30º
  • 40º
  • 50º
  • 60º
  • 70º
  • 80º
  • 90º
  • 100º
  • 110º
  • 120º
  • 130º
  • 140º
  • 150º
  • 160º
  • 170º
  • 180º

Animation

  • northern hemisphere
  • southern hemisphere
  • Prime Meridian (0º)
  • western hemisphere
  • eastern hemisphere
  • Arctic Circle (66.5º N)
  • Tropic of Cancer (23.5º N)
  • Tropic of Capricorn (23,5º S)
  • Antarctic Circle ( 66.5º S)
  • Equatorial diameter: 12,756.3 km
  • Equatorial circumference: ca. 40,076 km
  • International Date Line (180°)
  • 10º
  • 20º
  • 30º
  • 40º
  • 50º
  • 60º
  • 70º
  • 80º
  • 90º
  • 100º
  • 110º
  • 120º
  • 130º
  • 140º
  • 150º
  • 160º
  • 170º
  • 180º
  • 23,5º
  • 66,5º
  • North Pole
  • Arctic Circle
  • Tropic of Cancer
  • Equator
  • Tropic of Capricorn
  • Antarctic Circle
  • South Pole

Narration

The simplest way to specify any location on the Earth is to provide its coordinates. The geographic coordinate system is made up of lines of latitude and longitude.

A line of latitude is an arc of a circle parallel to the Equator, whose plane is perpendicular to the axis of rotation. To determine the value of a line of latitude, we need to connect one of its points with the centre of the Earth and measure the angle this line forms with the plane of the Equator. For example, in the case of the Tropic of Cancer, this angle is 23.5°.

Zero degrees latitude is called the Equator. It divides the Earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. Away from the Equator, latitude increases to 90°, at the poles. When specifying the latitude coordinates of a point we need to indicate whether the value of the degrees refers to lines of longitude North or South.

Important lines of latitude are the Arctic and the Antarctic Circles that run at 66.5° latitude. The Tropic of Cancer lies at 23.5° north of the Equator. The Tropic of Capricorn is located 23.5° south of the Equator. The major lines of latitude mark the boundary of climatic zones.

A line of longitude is a curve connecting the North and the South Poles on the shortest path. The plane defined by the lines of longitude coincides with the Earth’s axis of rotation. Zero degrees longitude is called the Prime Meridian. Away from here, longitude increases on both hemispheres to 180°. The Prime Meridian passes through Greenwich, on the outskirts of London.

To obtain the longitude coordinate values of an arbitrarily chosen point we need to identify the point marked by the Prime Meridian on the Equator. We then need to see where the line of longitude that our selected point belongs to crosses the Equator. Then, we need to connect the two points obtained to the centre of the Earth and measure the angle formed by the two segments.

On the opposite side of the prime meridian, at 180° longitude, lies the International Date Line. When specifying the longitude coordinates of a point we need to indicate whether the value of the degree refers to lines of longitude East or West.

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