UTM, or Universal Transverse Mercator, is a geographic coordinate system that is used to project an area of the earth’s surface onto a flat two-dimensional map. UTM projections are used to minimize the distortion that occurs when a part of the globe is represented on a flat surface such as a sheet of paper or a computer screen. There are 60 UTM zones across the earth’s surface, and it is possible to determine the UTM zone of a given location if you know its latitude and longitude.
Determine the latitude and longitude of the location of interest. You can do this by looking up the location on an atlas, using a GPS unit or consulting an online resource.
Consult the DMAP UTM grid zone map, available online, to visually determine the UTM zone in which your location falls. This map shows the numbered UTM grid cells superimposed on a world map, which allows you to pinpoint the specific UTM grid cell that overlays your region of interest.
Use the National Geodetic Survey’s online conversion tool for Geodetic to UTM coordinates to convert the latitude and longitude of your location (in degrees) to UTM Northing and Easting (in meters). This tool is an online calculator into which you can enter the latitude and longitude, and it will give you the UTM Northing and Easting as output.
- globe image by danimages from Fotolia.com