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COMMUNITY MAPPING: Convertng Geographic Coordinates Manually

Do you know that there is more than one way to record lattude and longitude? Why is it important to convert all
coordinates into one format and how is it done?
In this secton, you will learn three ways geographic coordinates (lattude and longitude) are formated. You will also
learn how to use a formula to convert the coordinates into one consistent format.
It is important to understand the diferent ways geographic coordinates are recorded because if they are not in the same
format it can get very confusing. Plus if you are creatng a layered map, you cannot layer coordinates onto your map
unless they are the same format. In other words, waypoints will not show up on your map untl you convert them all
into the same format.
There are three ways to record lattude and longitude.
1. Decimal Degrees (DD) places lattude and longitude coordinates in decimal fractons. This method is commonly
used with GPS, GIS, and online map applicatons.
2. Decimal Minutes (DM) places lattude and longitude coordinates in decimal minutes.
3. Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS) places lattude and longitude coordinates in degrees, minutes, and seconds.
All of the formats below refer to the same locaton. The lattude and longitude are represented diferently in diferent
The State 4H Ofce
1902 Fox Drive
Champaign, IL. 61820
Normal GPS Coordinates (WGS84 Datum)
DD 40.09254 -88.24866
DM N 40 05.552 W 088 14.919
DMS N 40 5 33.1476 W 88 14 55.1652
DD (Decimal Degree) = N 40.09254, W -88.24866
DM Decimal Minutes = N 40 5.552, W 088 14.919
DMS (Degrees Minutes Seconds)= N 40 5 33.1476 W 088 14 55.1652
(lat) 40 degrees 5 minutes 33.147 seconds
(lon) -88 degrees 14 minutes 55.1652 seconds
Developed by Dr. Lisa Bouillion Diaz, Barb Roberts, Terri Myers, Dr. Nama Budathoki, Wilbon Anthony, Susan Hayden, and
Dawn Waller. University of Illinois Extension, 2011. College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences/State/
County/Local Groups/USDA cooperating. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and
Convertng your waypoint data from Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS) to Decimal Degree (DD) format (or vice versa) is
easy and can be done automatcally on the Internet or it may be converted manually with this formula:
(D + M/60 + S/3600) = DD
Lets say you live in the city of Springfeld, the state capitol of Illinois. Your clubs members have identfed and divided
up local places of interest and have gathered their coordinates. All coordinates are in the Decimal Degree (DD)
format except for the Abraham Lincoln Presidental Museum. That persons GPS receiver was set to Decimal Minute
DM conversions, and therefore that waypoint does not show up on your map. You need to convert the lattude and
longitude coordinates from DM to DD.
Abraham Lincoln Presidental Museum
212 N. Sixth Street
Springfeld, IL 62701
DM coordinates
Lattude: 39. 48.103 Longitude: 089. 38.873
Use the formula above to convert these coordinates from DM to DD. Remember, if you do not have a coordinate to put
in the formula then zero is used.
Click for the correct answer: DD = (lat) 39.80172 (lon) -89.64788
When is it necessary to convert geographic coordinates into the same format?
Did you fnd the manual formula easy to use? Explain.
How can your new conversion skills help you now and in the future?