Basic GIS Coordinates  book cover
3rd Edition

Basic GIS Coordinates

ISBN 9781498774628
Published June 12, 2017 by CRC Press
196 Pages - 70 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

Coordinates are integral building tools for GIS, cartography, surveying and are vital to the many applications we use today such as smart phones, car navigation systems and driverless cars. Basic GIS Coordinates, Third Edition grants readers with a solid understanding of coordinates and coordinate systems and how they operate as well as valuable insight into what causes them to malfunction. This practical and comprehensive guide lays out the foundation of a coordinate system and the implications behind building it as it elaborates on heights, two coordinate systems, and the rectangular system.The previous editions described horizontal and vertical datums such as the North American Datum 1983 (NAD 83) and the North American Vertical Datum 1988 (NAVD 88). Both will be replaced in 2022 or thereabouts. The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) plans to replace NAD83 with a new semi-dynamic terrestrial reference frame for North America and a new vertical datum will replace NAVD88. The foundation of the new vertical datum will be a temporally tracked gravimetric geoid. The interim period is intended to smooth the transition to the new paradigm and this new edition explores the changes and provides assistance in understanding them.


Table of Contents



Foundation of a Coordinate System


Datums to the Rescue

Latitude and Longitude


Polar Coordinates

Building a Coordinate System

Legacy Geodetic Surveying


The Initial Point

The Terrestrial Reference Frame

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service

The North American Datum of 1983, World Geodetic System

Transforming Coordinates


Ellipsoid Height

Trigonometric Leveling

Spirit Leveling

Sea Level

Evolution of the Vertical Datum


Dynamic Heights

Measuring Gravity

Orthometric Correction

Ellipsoid, Geoid, and Orthometric Heights

NGS Geoid Models

Replacement of NAVD88


Two Coordinate Systems

State Plane Coordinates

Universal Transverse Mercator Coordinates

The Rectangular System

The Initial Points




The Subdivision of Sections

Township Plats

Fractional Lots

Naming Aliquot Parts and Corners



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Jan Van Sickle has many years of experience in GIS, GPS, surveying, mapping, and imagery. He began working with GPS in the early 1980s when he supervised control work using the Macrometer, the first commercial GPS receiver. He created and led the GIS department at Qwest Communications, Denver, Colorado, for the company’s 25,000-mile worldwide fiber optic network. He also led the team that built the GIS for natural gas gathering in the Barnett Shale. He has led nationwide seminars based on his three books: GPS for Land Surveyors, Basic GIS Coordinates, and Surveying Solved Problems. He led the team that collected, processed, and reported control positions for more than 120 cities around the world for the ortho-rectification of satellite imagery now utilized in a global web utility. He managed the creation of the worldwide T&E sites for two major earth observation satellites that are used for frequent accuracy assessments. He created an imagery-based system of deriving road centerlines that meet the stringent Advanced Driver Assistance specifications and developed a method of forest inventory to help quantify that depleted resource in Armenia. He assisted the supervision of the first GPS survey of the Grand Canyon for the photogrammetric evaluation of sandbar erosion along the Colorado River. He has performed three-dimensional mapping with terrestrial photogrammetry and LiDAR as well as Building Information Modeling for major buildings in Washington, DC. He was a member of the team of authors for the Geospatial Technology Competency Model for the Department of Labor.


"Dr. Van Sickle has made yet another contribution to the field with this update on his popular book, Basic GIS Coordinates. As demonstrated with this book, he has a unique capability for explaining the complications and nuances of coordinate systems in an understandable manner. This book should have a prominent place in the library of the many people having a role in using coordinate systems for their work and everyday life."
—Lynn E. Johnson, University of Colorado, Denver, USA

"No GIS educator or practitioner should be without Basic GIS Coordinates. Jan Van Sickle explains some of our field’s most challenging, yet fundamental, concepts with unsurpassed clarity. His combination of long professional experience, deep study, and clear expression prepare him uniquely to create this invaluable reference work. Meanwhile, the impending replacement of North America’s primary horizontal and vertical datums add a new sense of urgency to this welcome 3rd edition."
—David DiBiase, Esri, Redlands, California, USA

"This book address the issue of accurately representing our 3D planet in a 2D forum. The author covers the traditional ways of representing location in X,Y, and Z space and the challenges with these techniques; and provides a comprehensive view of coordinate systems, datums, and other details associated with location description."
— Kumar Navulur, PhD, Frederick, Colorado, USA

"The Basic GIS Coordinates by Dr. Van Sickle has become a favorite book for many of my students. I would recommend this book to everybody who wants to learn the foundations of the coordinate systems, datums, and basic geodetic principals. There are several other books on this subject, but Basic GIS Coordinates stands above all of them for one simple reason: the genuine way of describing complex scientific principals in plain English without extensive heavy mathematics. I strongly recommend."
— Apostol Panayotov, University of Colorado, Denver, USA

"Basic GIS Coordinates is a ‘must have’ survival guide for everyone in this age of ubiquitous digital locations. Jan Van Sickle is the ultimate spatial adventurer with a lifetime of achievement who has ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt and took a selfie.’ He informs, educates and guides the spatial consumer through the constructs, assumptions and limitations intrinsic to accurately representing the rough irregular surface of our 3-D world on flat 2-D surfaces, digital or otherwise. Navigating the uninitiated through key elements of coordinate systems, datums, reference frames, transformations, and earth models may loom daunting, but in Basic GIS Coordinates it is a pleasurable and enlightening journey. In stark contrast to the Alice in Wonderland truism ‘If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there’, Jan Van Sickle clearly illuminates for the reader which road to pick, where it leads and how to consistently get there."
— Michael Harris, TigerShark Consulting, Livermore, Alabama, USA

"As with previous editions of this fine book, the pithy opening sentence of the first chapter states, ‘Coordinates are slippery devils.’ And indeed, they are. Coordinates are fundamental to GIS, and to the widespread – and rapidly growing – arena of positioning-based products and services. A solid understanding of coordinates requires a working knowledge of the underlying geodetic principles. That is no simple thing, and Jan Van Sickle again succeeds in adroitly explaining such complex and subtle concepts. New to this third edition is the important and timely topic of replacing the existing U.S. datums with a modern dynamic system in 2022. Perhaps most remarkable is that so much material is capably explained in such a slender volume. An accessible and engaging style is augmented with numerous clean, clear illustrations. The result is a book that should have a prominent place in the library of GIS professionals. And despite the book’s title, it can serve as a valuable reference to geospatial practitioners in other fields, from surveying and engineering to photogrammetry and remote sensing. In short, it will find an audience with anyone who works with and wants a better understanding of those ‘slippery devils’ – coordinates."
— Michael L. Dennis, Geodetic Analysis, LLC, Sedona, Arizona, USA