What does the term UTM mean? Is UTM better or more accurate than latitude/longitude?

UTM is the acronym for Universal Transverse Mercator, a plane coordinate grid system named for the map projection on which it is based (Transverse Mercator). The UTM system consists of 60 zones, each 6-degrees of longitude in width. The zones are numbered 1-60, beginning at 180-degrees longitude and increasing to the east. The military uses their own implementation of the UTM system, called the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS).

One system is no more or less accurate than the other. They are just two different ways of positioning a point. Many experienced users prefer UTM over latitude/longitude when using 7.5' topographic quadrangle maps. Ocean going sailors and other marine users almost always use latitude/longitude because navigation charts are optimized for this method.

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Why do Landsat scenes in the Southern Hemisphere display negative UTM values?

Traditional Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) convention distinguishes between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. In the Northern Hemisphere, the UTM zone is a positive value or identified as UTM North. In the Southern Hemisphere, the UTM zone is a negative value or identified as UTM South. UTM North scenes in this convention have a false...

Why don’t all USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps show the UTM grid?

For maps in the Historical Topographic Map Collection (1884-2006): Through time, policies have changed regarding whether or not a full UTM grid would appear on the 7.5-minute map series. Beginning in the mid 1950's, the grid was indicated by blue ticks around the map at 1000 meter spacing. In 1979, the ticks were replaced with a full-line black...

How are UTM coordinates measured on a USGS topographic maps? Are UTM ticks shown on all topographic maps?

The UTM ( Universal Transverse Mercator ) coordinate system divides the world into sixty north-south zones, each 6 degrees of longitude wide. UTM zones are numbered consecutively beginning with Zone 1, which includes the westernmost point of Alaska, and progress eastward to Zone 16, which includes Maine. If UTM ticks are shown on a USGS...

Why don't Forest Service maps have Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grids?

The Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid is not used on the Forest Visitor Map series because of the maps’ small scale and intended use. The more detailed Wilderness and Special Area maps published by the Forest Service (some of which are available through the USGS Store ) might have UTM grid ticks. UTM grids are included on all US Topo maps (...
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November 18, 2010

PubTalk 11/2010 — Silicon, Software, and Science

Monitoring the Earth's Landscape with Low-Cost High-Tech

by Rian Bogle, Remote Sensing Specialist

 

  • The USGS is one of the world's largest providers of remote sensing data, employing the best tools and techniques to expand our knowledge of the Earth.
  • Working with low-cost field and aerial imaging technologies,
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PubTalk 11/2004 — From Plane Tables to Pixels

The Revolution in Mapping at the U.S. Geological Survey

by Susan P. Benjamin, Research Geographer

  • Mapping the United States in the 19th century was arduous, dangerous work; flash floods, bears, and bandits were just a few hazards
  • By the mid-20th century, aerial photography, photogrammetry, and stereophoto pairs, allowed
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