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How much distance does a degree, minute, and second cover on your maps?

The distances vary. A degree, minute, or second of latitude remains fairly constant from the equator to the poles; however a degree, minute, or second of longitude can vary greatly as one approaches the poles and the meridians converge.

At 38 degrees North latitude (which passes through Stockton California and Charlottesville Virginia):

  • One degree of latitude equals approximately 364,000 feet (69 miles), one minute equals 6,068 feet (1.15 miles), and one-second equals 101 feet. 
  • One-degree of longitude equals 288,200 feet (54.6 miles), one minute equals 4,800 feet (0.91 mile), and one second equals 80 feet.
longitude convergence
Illustration showing longitude convergence. Latitude distances remain constant.