This coordinates converter will convert latitude and longitude coordinates to the desired format: DD, DMS, or DDM. What is latitude and longitude? These are the imaginary lines that go around and from pole to pole on a globe, respectively. If you know latitude and longitude, you can find any place on Earth. In order to do that you will have to know how to read and write coordinates. We will explain how to do this in the text below. We will also show you the principles of converting coordinates and give a step-by-step examples for the Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building.
What is latitude and longitude?
With coordinates, you can locate any place on the Earth to a high degree of accuracy. The geographical coordinate system is based on the spherical coordinate system for an ellipsoid - the shape of the Earth. It originates from the intersection of the Prime Meridian (Greenwich, England) with the Equator. We specify coordinates using latitude and longitude. But what are they exactly?
Latitude is the angle between the equatorial plane and the line extending from the center of the Earth to a certain point on its surface. It references the north-south position on the Earth. It's represented by circles of latitude, or parallels - the lines that go around the globe. The central line of latitude is called the Equator. It has a latitude of 0 degrees. The maximum value of latitude is 90 degrees - found at the poles.
Longitude, on the other hand, refers to a east-west position on the Earth. Lines of longitude, or meridians connect the North and the South Pole. They extend to the east and west of the Prime Meridian, reaching up to 180 degrees. All meridians have the same length - 12,429.9 miles (20,003.93 km).
Did you know that you can calculate the shortest possible distance between two points of known geographical coordinates using latitude and longitude? You can also estimate the direction you need to point your compass to get from one point to the other. Find out how in the azimuth calculator!
Now that you know what is latitude and longitude, let's see how to write coordinates in GPS, our lat long converter, or any other tool.
How to write coordinates?
The first rule of writing coordinates is:
First comes the latitude, then the longitude.
Sometimes to help distinguish between latitude and longitude, their respective symbols are included: φ (phi) for latitude and λ (lambda) for longitude. To formulate coordinates you can use:
- DD (decimal degrees - °)
- DMS (degrees - °, minutes - ', seconds - ")
- DDM (degrees (°), decimal minutes ('))
To specify the cardinal direction, you can use letters or positive and negative numbers. For latitude, northern directions may be indicated by the letter N or a positive number, and southern directions can be marked with either the letter S or a negative value. For longitude, you can use the letter E or a positive number for the eastern direction, and the western direction can be indicated by the letter W, or a negative number. Remember - don't mix the forms! If you're using letters, values should always be positive.
Expressing the direction with positive or negative values is common in the DD format of coordinates. It's less popular with DMS or DDM.
For example, let's see how to write the coordinates for two places: the Empire State Building in New York - a city located west of the Prime Meridian and in the northern hemisphere - and Sydney Opera House - east of the Prime Meridian and in the southern hemisphere.
Here are some acceptable forms of latitude and longitude coordinates:
- Empire State Building:
- 40.748417, -73.985833 (DD)
- 40.748417 N, 73.985833 W (DD)
- 40 44 54.3 φ N, 73 59 9 λ W (DMS)
- Sydney Opera House:
- -33.858611 φ, 151.214167 λ (DD)
- 33 51.5167 S, 151 12.8500 E (DDM)
- 33° 51′ 31″ S, 151° 12′ 51″ E (DMS)
Please note that the
" symbols aren't mandatory. If you are not using them, the numbers of degrees, minutes, and seconds are separated by spaces instead.
How to convert latitude and longitude coordinates?
There are 60 minutes in a degree, and there are 60 seconds in one minute. That means that in one degree, there are 3600 seconds. When you realize that, the DMS to DD formula is obvious:
Decimal degrees = Degrees + Minutes/60 + Seconds/3600
Let's convert the latitude and longitude coordinates of the Empire State Building. The coordinates are 40° 44′ 54.3″ N, 73° 59′ 9″ W. So its latitude in decimal degrees is:
DD = 40 + 44/60 + 54.3/3600 = 40.748417
DD = 73 + 59/60 + 9/3600 = 73.985833
Coordinates in the northern hemisphere have positive values. Coordinate west of the Prime Meridian have negative values. So the geographic coordinates of Empire State Building are:
To convert from degrees with decimal minutes to decimal degrees shortens the formula:
DD = Degrees + Decimal minutes / 60
Converting in the opposite direction is slightly harder. But don't worry. We will explain it step by step below.
How to convert coordinates in DD to DMS, or DDM?
To convert latitude and longitude coordinates in decimal degrees to degrees with minutes and seconds or degrees with decimal minutes, follow these three steps:
- Take the integer - these are the degrees.
- Multiply the decimal part by 60.
- If you want to have decimal minutes - here they are! Ignore the third point.
- If you want to get coordinates in DMS, take only the integer - these are the minutes. Go to the third point.
- Multiply the rest by 60. Here are the seconds.
For example, let's convert the Sydney Opera House coordinates from DD to DMS. The coordinates are -33.858611 151.214167.
- The integer from 33.858611 is 33. The degrees equal 33.
- The decimal part:
51.51666. Take the integer -
minutes = 51'.
- Again, take the decimal part -
0.51666, and multiply it by
60. You will get the amount of
seconds = 31".
Now, repeat the steps for longitude:
- Degrees are equal to 151°.
0.214167 * 60 = 12.85: the minutes equal 12'.
0.85002 * 60 = 51: the seconds = 51".
All that's left to do is determine the cardinal direction. Latitude is negative, so it's in the South. Longitude is positive. That indicates a position in the east. So the coordinates of the Sydney Opera House are:
33° 51′ 31″ S 151° 12′ 51″ E.
Now you know how to calculate like our lat long converter! Before you go, check out this scale conversion calculator!