Transverse Mercator projection

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A transverse Mercator projection

The transverse Mercator projection is an adaptation of the Mercator projection. Both projections are cylindrical and conformal. However, in the transverse Mercator, the cylinder is rotated 90° (transverse) relative to the equator so that the projected surface is aligned to a central meridian rather than to the equator, as is the case with the equatorial Mercator projection. The central meridian can be placed or located in any region, as long as it is in the center of that region. This projection is best used for north-south zones in the state plane coordinate system. There are 2 well known coordinate systems that are based on this projection, they are the UTM and Gauss-Kruger coordinate systems. [1] From Esri. Accessed 20 September 2018

The projection introduces little distortion in the narrow region close to the tangent or secant points on the model globe. Scale 5° away from the central meridian is less than 0.4% greater than scale at the central meridian, and is about 1.54% at an angular distance of 10°. This low level of distortion, combined with the conformal property which it inherits from the Mercator projection, make the transverse Mercator projection ideal for mapping regions with a narrow longitudinal extent, such as Chile.

Forms of the transverse Mercator projection

Spherical transverse Mercator (0°N,90°E/W at infinity)

In constructing a map on any projection, a sphere is normally chosen to model the earth when the extent of the mapped region exceeds a few hundred kilometers in length in both dimensions. For maps of smaller regions, an ellipsoidal model is chosen if greater accuracy is required. The transverse Mercator projection comes in both forms. Work has also progressed on forms for irregular celestial bodies.

Regardless of the developing model, the transverse Mercator projection is characterized by three conditions: the map is conformal, the central meridian is straight, and distances along it are proportionally correct. That is, the scale is constant along the central meridian. The projected surface can be tangent to the model of the Earth, which produces a map that is true to scale along this line. Or, the scale factor can be reduced in order to balance out the distortion over the mapped region. In this secant case, two paths of true scale flank the central meridian. These paths are straight lines that run parallel to the central meridian in the spherical model. They are curves in the ellipsoidal model, approximately straight and parallel when sufficiently close to the central meridian.


The spherical form of the transverse Mercator projection was presented by Johann Heinrich Lambert in 1772.[1] Distortion of scale increases entirely as a function of distance from the central meridian, approaching infinite as the extent of the map approaches the entire sphere. Thus the entire sphere cannot be shown. The spherical version sees some use, but its utility is often exceeded by other considerations in small-scale mapping, such as preserving area.

Ellipsoidal transverse Mercator, entire earth


The ellipsoidal transverse Mercator, developed from an ellipsoidal model of the Earth, was presented by mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1822 and further analyzed by L. Krüger in the early 20th century.[2] In Europe, the ellipsoidal form is sometimes referred to as the Gauss-Krüger or Gauss conformal projection. Its distortion is a function of latitude, longitude, and eccentricity of the ellipsoid, rather than just distance away from the central meridian. While the complete spherical form is infinite in extent, the ellipsoidal form is finite.[3]

The ellipsoidal form with a reduced scale factor has been the most widely used projection in geodetic mapping since the mid twentieth century. It is employed by most national mapping systems. The UTM, for example, uses the secant case, applying a scale factor of 0.9996 along the central meridian.

The transverse Mercator projection is usually computed by means of a series which provides accurate results near the central meridian. For example, Krüger gives a fourth-order series which is accurate to 350 km. Lee gives exact formulas for the projection which are valid over the whole ellipsoid. These involve incomplete elliptic integrals and are based on unpublished work by E. H. Thompson (1945).

See also


  1. Lambert, J.H. (1772). Notes and Comments on the Composition of Terrestrial and Celestial Maps (translated by Tobler, W.R., 1972) p. 57. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
  2. Krüger, L. (1912). Konforme Abbildung des Erdellipsoids in der Ebene. Royal Prussian Geodetic Institute, New Series 52.
  3. Lee, L.P. (1976). Conformal Projections Based on Elliptic Functions (Supplement No. 1 to Canadian Cartographer, Vol 13.) p. 97. Toronto: Department of Geography, York University.

Snyder, John P. (1987). Map Projections - A Working Manual. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1395. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.  This paper can be downloaded from USGS pages

External links

  • Table of examples and properties of all common projections, from
  • GeographicLib includes two implementations of the transverse Mercator projection. One based on a sixth-order Krüger series is accurate to 5 nm within about 35° of the central meridian. The other implements Thompson's method for the exact projection and is accurate to 8 nm over the whole ellipsoid.