A GEB reader recently asked us how to use UTM coordinates in Google Earth and we thought it might be a good idea to explore it a bit.
If you go to Tools->Options->3D View and look in the ‘Show Lat/Long’ section there are five different coordinate systems listed and whichever system you select will be what Google Earth uses to display locations, both in the status bar as well as in the properties of placemarks. However, KML files always use decimal degrees so placemarks and other features are actually saved using decimal degrees and converted to and from that for entry and display.
To learn about the different systems and how they work, Wikipedia is a good place to start:
- Decimal Degrees
- Degrees, Minutes, Seconds (Latitude, Longitude)
- Degrees, Decimal Minutes (a variation on the above).
- Universal Transverse Mercator
- Military Grid Reference System
We found that the search function of Google Earth can deal with all the above formats. You do not need to change the options in order to search with a different notation.
When using latitude and longitude always put latitude first. This can lead to confusion when working with KML, which uses the reverse notation. It is quite flexible and you can simply leave spaces rather than degrees, minutes and seconds symbols. A comma between latitude and longitude is also optional. You can also use either positive and negative or add compass directions after the numbers. Positive is North or East, negative is South or West.
The following formats all work:
37.421966 N, 122.085010 W
Degrees, Minutes, Seconds
37 25 19.1 N 122 05 06 W
Universal Transverse Mercator
10 S 580961.91 4142077.66
10 N 580961.91 4142077.66
(the format shown in the Google Earth status bar does not work: 10 S 580961.91 m N 4142077.66 m E)
Military Grid Reference System
We chose the above location because it was offered as an example below the search box. It turns out to be the Googleplex.