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How do you read UTM coordinates?

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Quick Answer

A set of Universal Transverse Mercator, or UTM, coordinates includes three sections: the UTM zone; the easting, which is the measurement of the east-west position; and the northing, which is the measurement of the north-south position. Each section determines the location of a specific point on the world map.

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Full Answer

A UTM system divides the Earth into 60 zones, with each zone 6 degrees of longitude in width. For example, zone 10 includes the westernmost part of the United States, from about the middle of Washington state to the Pacific Ocean. The zone number is followed by "N" or "S" to designate the northern or southern hemisphere. The easting and northing numbers indicate a position in that zone and are measured in meters.

Global positioning systems can display locations using UTM coordinates as do many printed and electronic topographic maps. GPS devices, maps and guidebooks use a particular UTM datum, or set of coordinates and locations based on a geographical survey. GPS devices use the North American Datum of 1983, also known as NAD 83. Maps and guidebooks used with GPS devices must also use NAD 83 to avoid conflicts in location calculations. The UTM datum is often printed in the lower-left corner of a map.

Several websites display a location on a map based on a set of UTM coordinates. For example, Geoplaner converts UTM coordinates to an address and map location.

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