GPS coordinate formats

10 Apr

The degree symbol ° can be typed on a normal keyboard using and holding the alt key and pressing 0176
Some people often use a  dms  conventional shortcut  N44d 13m 52.7s  W76d 31m 51.6s  because it saves finding the symbols. While others may use only + 44.23132    -076.53101

An example of latitude and longitude location:
N 44.23132°      W076.53101°         degrees and decimals of degrees

N 44° 13.879′    W076° 31.861′       degrees, minutes and decimals of minutes

N 44° 13′ 52.7″  W076° 31′ 51.6″     degrees, minutes, seconds and decimals of seconds

Sometimes the formats are abbreviated and written as  D.Dº ,  Dº M.M’  ,  or  Dº M’ S”.

Confused? From my experience, most gps users seem to use the degrees, minutes and decimals of minutes format. Just basic math, and knowing that there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in a degree, allows conversion.  The number of decimal places shown provides an adequate location for anyone using a handheld gps.

But the format with just the degrees and decimals D.Dº  is the simplest and least confusing. The 5th decimal place of a degree is approximately equal to one metre and at the positional accuracy limit of our handheld devices. So the relative location area is about the size of a picnic table in a campsite and certainly good enough for SAR.


By using standard formats correctly maybe the confusion and mistakes will be avoided that hamper some search and rescue missions.  We have access to so much amazing technology and many well trained SAR technicians to help us in emergency situations, but we should all be clear and careful in our communication.  I do hope that if I ever need to press the SOS button, to activate my SPOT in an emergency, that responders won’t confuse my location.

from the movie "UP"

from the movie “UP”

Link to the following websites for more information:    find out how Einstein’s theories get used in practice every day.


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: