Geographic Transformation

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A geographic transformation is a mathematical operation that converts the coordinates of a point in one geographic coordinate system to the coordinates of the same point in another geographic coordinate system.

Because geographic coordinate systems contain datums that are based on spheroids, a geographic transformation also changes the underlying spheroid. There are several methods, which have different levels of accuracy and ranges, for transforming between datums. The accuracy of a particular transformation can range from centimeters to meters depending on the method and the quality and number of control points available to define the transformation parameters.

A common transformation in North American data is between NAD83 and WGS84, or between the GCS North American 1927 and GCS WGS 1984 geographic coordinate systems as shown below.
{Transformation from GCS North American 1927 to GCS WGS 1984}

A geographic transformation always converts geographic (latitude–longitude) coordinates. Some methods convert the geographic coordinates to geocentric (X,Y,Z) coordinates, transform the X,Y,Z coordinates, and convert the new values back to geographic coordinates.[1]


  1. Geographic Transformation Methods, ArcGIS Desktop Online Help, Accessed 31 March 2010

See Also