How Do Latitude and Longitude Coordinates Help Us See Patterns on Earth?
ES0303  Using Space-Based Technology to Find Latitude
and Longitude

Analyzing the distribution of temperatures is just one example of using latitude and longitude. Knowing precise locations can be very useful in other endeavors as well. For example, ships, airplanes, and commercial trucking rigs place a high value on knowing their exact location at all times. People driving in unfamiliar locations or participating in outdoor recreation in remote areas also want to know their locations. The use of space-based technology for determining location is increasingly affordable and widespread.


The technology for determining location is called the Global Positioning System (GPS). The GPS consists of twenty-four satellites orbiting Earth. A GPS receiver gathers and analyzes signals from the satellites to determine and report its location. Using a hand-held receiver like the one in the image, or one that is built into a ship, airplane, truck, or car, it is possible to find the latitude and longitude of almost any place on Earth to within a few meters.

Click here to access a video clip explaining how the GPS works.

The latitude and longitude grid is the foundation for technology-based mapping that enables us to analyze patterns on Earth. When you practice plotting latitude and longitude coordinates, you increase your awareness of the basic concepts underlying the use of this increasingly accessible technology.

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