# IDENTIFYING THE TYPE OF COORDINATE SYSTEM FOR DATA USING ARCMAP

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1 C H A P T E R 1 IDENTIFYING THE TYPE OF COORDINATE SYSTEM FOR DATA USING ARCMAP My boss told me to make a map using ArcMap, but when I add the data, I get an error message that says missing spatial reference and the data doesn t line up. I ve got a deadline! How do I fix it? When I add my new data to ArcMap, I get a Warning box that says Inconsistent extent and the data doesn t line up. What is the problem? The coordinate system for data provides a frame of reference so that users of geographic information systems (GIS) can identify the location of features on the surface of the earth, align data, and create maps. These maps enable users to perform spatial analyses of the data and view its relationship to other features. Dozens of map projections, the means for displaying features from the curved surface of the earth to a flat sheet of paper, have been calculated by geodesists scientists who study the shape of the earth. Each of these map projections has been calculated to preserve one or more specific properties of the data shape, distance, area, or direction. Literally, an infinite number of specific projections can be created for data depending on the extent, location, and particular property of the data that is most important for a specific project, general data storage, and maintenance. No wonder people are confused by projections. This book is organized to help you to narrow the huge number of possible coordinate systems for data to a manageable selection and to identify the unknown coordinate systems by following the methods outlined. The book also provides instructions for creating custom projection files, if data is not in a standard coordinate system, so that data will properly line up in ArcMap. All data is created in some coordinate system. Once you identify which coordinate system your data is in, you can correctly select (define) the map projection file that will render your data in the right location in ArcMap in relation to other data. The first three chapters contain steps to identify the coordinate system of data in ArcMap, and define the coordinate system to match the data, if the data has been created using a standard projection.

3 The difference between defining a coordinate system and projecting data (continued) After defining the projection with the coordinate system that matches the data, you will use the Project tool, located in ArcToolbox > Data Management Tools > Projections and Transformations > Feature. The Project tool creates a new copy of the data in the coordinate system you have selected. When the Project tool is finished, you will still have the original input data, in the original coordinate system. The new data will be in the new coordinate system you selected. Add both sets of data to ArcMap, and compare the extents to see how the coordinate system selected for the output changed the extent of the data. U S I N G P R O J E C T O N T H E F LY I N A R C M A P The ArcMap data frame adopts the coordinate system definition of the first layer added to a new empty map. If the first data added has the projection correctly defined, other data that has correct coordinate system definitions will be projected on the fly to the coordinate system of the data frame when added to the map document. The newly added data will be displayed in the data frame s current coordinate system. The project-on-the-fly utility in ArcMap is intended to facilitate mapmaking and cartographic development, but should not be used when analysis is performed with the data or if the data will be edited. Project on the fly makes no permanent change to the data displayed in the map, and is just as accurate as projecting data with the Project tool in ArcToolbox. If the newly added data does not have a coordinate system defined or if the coordinate system is defined incorrectly, project on the fly cannot work, data will not align, and the mapping project cannot be completed. I D E N T I F Y I N G T H E T Y P E O F C O O R D I N AT E S Y S T E M F O R D ATA U S I N G A R C M A P Data can be created in one of three types of coordinate systems: 1. Geographic 2. Projected 3. Local Data in each type of coordinate system can be identified by examining the extent of the data, as viewed on the Layer Properties > Source tab in ArcMap. In order to facilitate work with the new data, copy the data to a folder on the local hard drive where you have write permission. The local folder should not have spaces in the folder name or in the path to the folder. After copying the data to the local hard drive, verify that you have read-write access to the data by checking permissions according to the following instructions. L I N I N G U P D ATA C H A P T E R 1 3

5 Figure 1 2 The coordinate system defined for the data does not match the spatial extent of the data. The incorrect coordinate system definition must be removed from the data before proceeding. To do this: Delete the incorrect projection definition associated with the data by opening ArcToolbox > Data Management Tools > Projections and Transformations. (In ArcGIS Desktop 10, from within ArcMap, select Catalog window > Toolboxes > System Toolboxes to access this path.) Open the Define Projection tool, shown in figure 1 3, and from the Input Dataset or Feature Class drop-down list, select the name of the dataset that generated the error message. Click the Coordinate System browse button. On the Spatial Reference Properties dialog box that comes up, click Clear as shown in figure 1 4, then Apply and OK. Click OK again on the Define Projection tool to remove the incorrect coordinate system definition from the data. Figure 1 3 Define Projection dialog box. The shapefile specified in the Input Dataset or Feature Class box, Continents.shp, the continents of the world, should not have the coordinate system defined as NAD 1983 StatePlane for Kansas, or any state plane coordinate system. A projection from the state plane coordinate system applies only to a single state or portion of a state in the United States, and should not be used for data outside that specific area. Refer to figures 3 1 and 3 2 (pages 28-29) for illustrations of the areas covered by each state plane coordinate system FIPS zone. L I N I N G U P D ATA C H A P T E R 1 5

6 Figure 1 4 To clear the incorrect coordinate system definition from the data, click the Clear button, then click Apply and OK. The incorrect projection definition will be removed from the data. After clearing the incorrect coordinate system definition from the data, you must also remove the incorrect coordinate system definition from the ArcMap data frame. In the top bar of the ArcMap window, click View > Data Frame Properties > Coordinate System tab. Click Clear in the upper right corner of the dialog box, then click Apply and OK. This removes the coordinate system from the data frame, and prepares for identifying the coordinate system of the data. To identify the type of coordinate system for the dataset, proceed with the instructions that follow. E X A M I N I N G T H E E X T E N T O F T H E D ATA Right-click the name of the layer in the ArcMap Table of Contents > Properties > Source tab (and follow along with figures 5 through 7). In the Extent box near the top, count the number of digits to the left of the decimal for Top, Bottom, Left, and Right. (Ignore any digits to the right of the decimal.) These numbers to the left of the decimal are the extent of the data on the earth, in the coordinate system of the data. These values are meaningful only in relation to the correct coordinate system definition. The question marks following the Extent values substitute for an abbreviation for the units of measure for the coordinate system. ArcMap reads the units of measure from the projection file. Since the data does not have a coordinate system defined, there is no projection file associated with the data, and ArcMap is unable to read the units. 6 I D E N T I F Y I N G T H E T Y P E O F C O O R D I N AT E S Y S T E M F O R D ATA U S I N G A R C M A P

7 Figure 1 5 The two-digit numbers to the left of the decimal in the Extent box indicate this data is in a geographic coordinate system with units in decimal degrees. The question marks following the numbers are placeholders for the units. ArcMap reads the units from the coordinate system definition, but the projection is not defined, so ArcMap cannot display dd, the abbreviation for decimal degrees. Refer to figure 1 10 to view the distribution of geographic coordinates across the globe. Figure 1 6 The units of measure for this dataset are also unknown, but we know the data is in a projected coordinate system because the numbers in the Extent box are 6 or 7 digits to the left of the decimal point. A projected coordinate system will generally have extent values 6 to 8 digits to the left of the decimal, although smaller or larger extent values can occur in some cases. The extent values are again followed by question marks. The coordinate system is undefined, so ArcMap cannot read the units of the projection. L I N I N G U P D ATA C H A P T E R 1 7

8 Figure 1 7 This dataset is also in a projected coordinate system, with extent values 6 or 7 digits to the left of the decimal. Comparing figure 1 6 with this screenshot, notice that the position of the number of digits is different. In figure 1 6, the Top and Bottom values are 6 digits to the left of the decimal. In this figure, the Top and Bottom values are 7 digits to the left of the decimal. In figure 1 6, the Left and Right values are 7 digits to the left of the decimal, while in figure 1 7 there are only 6 digits in those positions. This clue is important when working to identify the spatial reference for the data, as you will soon see. Figure 1 8 This AutoCAD drawing file (DWG) has an extent in a local coordinate system. The Left and Bottom coordinates are 1 digit to the left of the decimal, which could indicate data in a geographic coordinate system (GCS), but the Top and Right values are 4 digits to the left of the decimal, so this data has to be in a local coordinate system. 8 I D E N T I F Y I N G T H E T Y P E O F C O O R D I N AT E S Y S T E M F O R D ATA U S I N G A R C M A P

9 Note the number of digits to the left of the decimal on a piece of paper as a reference to be used in the following steps. You can make a quick diagram with the number of digits arranged as shown in figure 1 9, four samples of what the coordinates may look like for four given sets of data. Figure 1 9 Diagrams of four sample extents for data in ArcMap, in dataset Layer Properties > Source tab > Extent box dialog. These numbers represent only the number of digits to the left of the decimal in the Top, Bottom, Left, and Right positions. G E O G R A P H I C C O O R D I N AT E S Y S T E M E X T E N T S In most cases, data that is in a geographic coordinate system (GCS) will have units of decimal degrees. A degree is an angle, and there are 360 degrees in a circle. In a GCS, the 360-degree extent is expressed in coordinates from -180 west to +180 east, measuring degrees of longitude or x-coordinates; and from +90 at the North Pole to -90 at the South Pole, measuring degrees of latitude or y-coordinates. These units are often referred to as lat/long. Within this coordinate extent, the location of data in decimal degrees will be expressed as positive or negative numbers 1, 2, or 3 digits to the left of the decimal for longitude, the Left and Right values. The latitude values, either positive or negative, can be no more than 1 or 2 digits to the left of the decimal for the Top and Bottom coordinates. Figure 1 10 Distribution of geographic coordinates across the surface of the earth. Data with coordinates in decimal degrees is in a GCS. This data can be created on hundreds of different datums. To define the coordinate system for data in a geographic coordinate system, the correct GCS and datum must be identified. (For detailed information about GCS and datums, refer to chapters 7 and 8.) L I N I N G U P D ATA C H A P T E R 1 9

11 If the data obtained is on a national or continental scale, data can be projected to coordinate systems created specifically for small-scale mapping. Some of these PCS are Albers equal area conic, equidistant conic, or Lambert conformal conic. Data in these coordinate systems may have negative x or y values in the data extent, and these coordinate systems should also be considered when working to identify the coordinate system for data in a PCS. (Turn to chapter 3 for steps to identify the projected coordinate system of the data.) Small-scale vs. large-scale maps Here the terminology of small and large is counterintuitive so it can be confusing. Scale values can be thought of as ratios, and are unitless numbers. As an example, a scale of 1:100 means that 1 inch measured on the map is equal to 100 inches on the ground, 1 foot measured on the map equals 100 feet on the ground, and 1 meter measured on the map equals 100 meters on the ground. Therefore, a small-scale map is one that displays data over a large area: a state like Alaska, an entire country like France, a continent, or the entire world. Scales shown in ArcMap may range from 1:1,000,000 to 1:750,000,000. A large-scale map is one that displays data over a small area: a city, a county, a state plane FIPS zone (more about state plane FIPS zones later). Scales shown in ArcMap may range from 1:100 to 1:1,000,000. L O C A L C O O R D I N AT E S Y S T E M E X T E N T S A N D C A D Data created using CAD software is frequently in a local coordinate system. A local coordinate system has its origin (0,0 or other values) in an arbitrary location that can be anywhere on the surface of the earth. For example, when a new subdivision is planned, a surveyor will be hired to map out the parcels, streets, open space, and other land use within the subdivision. The surveyor will begin work at a point of origin that is a known location southwest of the subdivision. From that point, the surveyor will collect bearings and distances for lines that define the parcels and other features. Sometimes this point of origin is in a real-world coordinate system, such as state plane, but often it is assigned arbitrary local coordinates like 0,0 or other values. Referring to what you see in the Layer Properties dialog box, the Extent of data created in a local coordinate system will most often have Top, Bottom, Left, and Right coordinates that are 3, 4, or 5 digits to the left of the decimal. In some cases, the Left and Bottom values may be 0 or other very small values, as illustrated in figure 1 8 (page 8). If the CAD data has an Extent value that is 6, 7, or 8 digits to the left of the decimal, the CAD data was probably created in a real-world coordinate system such as state plane. (In this case, turn to chapter 3 and apply the techniques for identifying a standard projected coordinate system, before addressing the more complex processes of modifying or creating a custom projection file for the CAD data discussed in chapters 4, 5, and 6.) CAD data is most often created with units of feet or meters, but other units are sometimes used and they can be unusual. There are CAD files created with units of centimeters, millimeters, kilometers, miles, inches, and in units of a tenth of an inch. In cases where the units of measure are very small, the values in the Extent box can have a very large number of digits (up to 14) to the left of the decimal, and still be in the state plane coordinate system. (The method for identifying and customizing units used in a standard coordinate system like state plane is addressed in chapter 4.) L I N I N G U P D ATA C H A P T E R 1 11

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