UTM – Universal Transverse Mercator Geographic Coordinate System

Rashid's Blog

The idea of the transverse mercator projection has its roots in the 18th century, but it did not come into common usage until after World War II. It has become the most used because it allows precise measurements in meters to within 1 meter.

A mercator projection is a ‘pseudocylindrical’ conformal projection (it preserves shape). What you often see on poster-size maps of the world is an equatorial mercator projection that has relatively little distortion along the equator, but quite a bit of distortion toward the poles.

What a transverse mercator projection does, in effect, is orient the ‘equator’ north-south (through the poles), thus providing a north-south oriented swath of little distortion. By changing slightly the orientation of the cylinder onto which the map is projected, successive swaths of relatively undistorted regions can be created.

This is exactly what the UTM system does. Each of these swaths is called a…

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