How to Convert GPS to Latitude and Longitude

by Kyra Sheahan

A global positioning system, or GPS, can help locate your destination, offering navigational directions for the person on the go. It can even help you find your way around when you get lost. GPS works off satellite communication that receives signals and then triangulates the location of the GPS user. Once this location is established, it can track the movement of the GPS based on the time the information was sent to the satellite. If you wish to know the latitudinal and longitudinal positions, you can calculate them based on the values from your GPS.

Latitude

1

Activate the GPS. Identify the first set of values in decimal points that the GPS screen displays. The GPS reading will provide you with two separate sets, each in the format of xx.xxx, such as 90.345. The first value set is the latitude degrees in decimals, followed by the longitude. Some types of GPS products will place the symbol N or S after the decimals to indicate north or south -- or E and W for east and west. In a latitude -- or longitude -- degree decimal, the degree is represented by the first two digits in the sequence, and the minutes and seconds follow to the right of the decimal point.

2

Convert the values of the first set into a latitudinal reading by breaking down the decimal digits. Work from seconds to minutes, and then from minutes to degrees. One minute is divided into 60 seconds, and one degree is divided into 60 minutes. Therefore, multiply the value to the right of the decimal -- or the ".xxx" -- by 60. For instance, if the decimal degree was 90.345, you would calculate the following formula: 60 x .345 = 20.7. Round to the nearest whole number, which is 21, and this becomes the minutes in the sequence.

3

Calculate the seconds in the decimal degree by taking the .7 that you got when you multiplied 60 by .345, and multiplying it by 60, since there are 60 seconds in one minute. Using this same example, the formula would look like 60 x .7 = 42. This means the seconds is the number 42.

4

Write out the entire sequence in degrees, minutes and seconds to find the latitude. In the example, this sequence would look like 90°21'42" as your latitude.

Longitude

1

Identify the second set of decimals that indicate the longitude reading. To come up with a reading for degrees, minutes and seconds, follow the same steps as you did for the latitude conversion. Start by multiplying the digits to the right of the decimal point by 60, and round the result to the nearest whole number to determine the minutes. So if the longitude decimal is 21.135, you multiply .135 by 60 to get 8.1, or 8 for the nearest whole number.

2

Find the seconds for the longitudinal reading by multiplying the .1 from the previous formula, and multiplying it by 60 -- which, for this example, equals 6. As such, 6 becomes the seconds in the longitudinal reading.

3

Write the longitudinal expression in degrees, minutes and seconds using the values you found. The numbers to the left of the decimal point stay the same, so the conversion becomes 21°8'6" for longitude.

Tip

  • check If the GPS places a negative sign in front of the latitude decimal reading, it indicates that the degree is South. If a negative sign is placed in front of the longitude decimal, it means the degree is West. Plus signs for a latitude and longitude reading mean North or East.

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About the Author

Kyra Sheahan has been a writer for various publications since 2008. Her work has been featured in "The Desert Leaf" and "Kentucky Doc Magazine," covering health and wellness, environmental conservatism and DIY crafts. Sheahan holds an M.B.A. with an emphasis in finance.

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