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The World Geodetic System (WGS) is a standard for use in cartography, geodesy, and satellite navigation including GPS. This standard includes the definition of the coordinate system's fundamental and derived constants, the ellipsoidal (normal) Earth Gravitational Model (EGM), a description of the associated World Magnetic Model (WMM), and a current list of local datum transformations. The latest revision is WGS 84 (also known as WGS 1984, EPSG:4326), established and maintained by the United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency since 1984, and last revised in 2014. Earlier schemes included WGS 72, WGS 66, and WGS 60. WGS 84 is the reference coordinate system used by the Global Positioning System. As CRS standard, and expressing by URN, , it is composed of:https://spatialreference.org/ref/epsg/wgs-84/gml/ * a standard reference ellipsoid model,http://www.epsg-registry.org/export.htm?gml=urn:ogc:def:ellipsoid:EPSG::7030 named ; * and this ellipsoid is located a standard horizontal datum, named .

Defining Parameters

The coordinate origin of WGS 84 is meant to be located at the Earth's center of mass; the uncertainty is believed to be less than 2 cm. The WGS 84 meridian of zero longitude is the IERS Reference Meridian,European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation and IfEN: WGS 84 Implementation Manual, p. 13. 1998 5.3 arc seconds or east of the Greenwich meridian at the latitude of the Royal Observatory. The WGS 84 datum surface is an oblate spheroid with equatorial radius ''a'' =  m at the equator and flattening ''f'' = 1/. The refined value of the WGS 84 gravitational constant (mass of Earth’s atmosphere included) is ''GM'' = ×108 m³/s². The angular velocity of the Earth is defined to be ''ω'' = 72.92115×10−6 rad/s. This leads to several computed parameters such as the polar semi-minor axis ''b'' which equals ''a'' × (1 − ''f'') =  m, and the first eccentricity squared, ''e²'' = ×10−3. Currently, WGS 84 uses the Earth Gravitational Model 2008. This geoid defines the nominal sea level surface by means of a spherical harmonics series of degree 2160. It is an improvement over the 1996 EGM96 model, which was in turn an improvement over the original WGS 84 geoid, referred to as EGM84. The deviations of the EGM96 geoid from the WGS 84 reference ellipsoid range from about −105 m to about +85 m. WGS 84 currently uses the World Magnetic Model 2020. The next regular update (WMM2025) will occur in December 2024.

History

Efforts to supplement the various national surveying systems began in the 19th century with F.R. Helmert's famous book (''Mathematical and Physical Theories of Physical Geodesy''). Austria and Germany founded the ''Zentralbüro für die Internationale Erdmessung'' (Central Bureau of International Geodesy), and a series of global ellipsoids of the Earth were derived (e.g., Helmert 1906, Hayford 1910/ 1924). A unified geodetic system for the whole world became essential in the 1950s for several reasons: * International space science and the beginning of astronautics. * The lack of inter-continental geodetic information. * The inability of the large geodetic systems, such as European Datum (ED50), North American Datum (NAD), and Tokyo Datum (TD), to provide a worldwide geo-data basis * Need for global maps for navigation, aviation, and geography. * Western Cold War preparedness necessitated a standardised, NATO-wide geospatial reference system, in accordance with the NATO Standardisation Agreement In the late 1950s, the United States Department of Defense, together with scientists of other institutions and countries, began to develop the needed world system to which geodetic data could be referred and compatibility established between the coordinates of widely separated sites of interest. Efforts of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force were combined leading to the DoD World Geodetic System 1960 (WGS 60). The term ''datum'' as used here refers to a smooth surface somewhat arbitrarily defined as zero elevation, consistent with a set of surveyor's measures of distances between various stations, and differences in elevation, all reduced to a grid of latitudes, longitudes, and elevations. Heritage surveying methods found elevation differences from a local horizontal determined by the spirit level, plumb line, or an equivalent device that depends on the local gravity field (see physical geodesy). As a result, the elevations in the data are referenced to the geoid, a surface that is not readily found using satellite geodesy. The latter observational method is more suitable for global mapping. Therefore, a motivation, and a substantial problem in the WGS and similar work is to patch together data that were not only made separately, for different regions, but to re-reference the elevations to an ellipsoid model rather than to the geoid. In accomplishing WGS 60, a combination of available surface gravity data, astro-geodetic data and results from HIRAN and Canadian SHORAN surveys were used to define a best-fitting ellipsoid and an earth-centered orientation for each of initially selected datum. (Every datum is relatively oriented with respect to different portions of the geoid by the astro-geodetic methods already described.) The sole contribution of satellite data to the development of WGS 60 was a value for the ellipsoid flattening which was obtained from the nodal motion of a satellite. Prior to WGS 60, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force had each developed a world system by using different approaches to the gravimetric datum orientation method. To determine their gravimetric orientation parameters, the Air Force used the mean of the differences between the gravimetric and astro-geodetic deflections and geoid heights (undulations) at specifically selected stations in the areas of the major datums. The Army performed an adjustment to minimize the difference between astro-geodetic and gravimetric geoids. By matching the relative astro-geodetic geoids of the selected datums with an earth-centered gravimetric geoid, the selected datums were reduced to an earth-centered orientation. Since the Army and Air Force systems agreed remarkably well for the NAD, ED and TD areas, they were consolidated and became WGS 60.

The United States Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1966

Improvements to the global system included the Astrogeoid of Irene Fischer and the astronautic Mercury datum. In January 1966, a World Geodetic System Committee composed of representatives from the United States Army, Navy and Air Force was charged with developing an improved WGS, needed to satisfy mapping, charting and geodetic requirements. Additional surface gravity observations, results from the extension of triangulation and trilateration networks, and large amounts of Doppler and optical satellite data had become available since the development of WGS 60. Using the additional data and improved techniques, WGS 66 was produced which served DoD needs for about five years after its implementation in 1967. The defining parameters of the WGS 66 Ellipsoid were the flattening (1/298.25 determined from satellite data) and the semimajor axis (6,378,145 meters determined from a combination of Doppler satellite and astro-geodetic data). A worldwide 5° × 5° mean free air gravity anomaly field provided the basic data for producing the WGS 66 gravimetric geoid. Also, a geoid referenced to the WGS 66 Ellipsoid was derived from available astrogeodetic data to provide a detailed representation of limited land areas.

The United States Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1972

A new World Geodetic System: WGS 84

thumb|upright|Handheld GPS receiver indicating the Greenwich meridian is 0.089 arcminutes (or 5.34 arcseconds) west to the WGS 84 datum In the early 1980s, the need for a new world geodetic system was generally recognized by the geodetic community as well as within the US Department of Defense. WGS 72 no longer provided sufficient data, information, geographic coverage, or product accuracy for all then-current and anticipated applications. The means for producing a new WGS were available in the form of improved data, increased data coverage, new data types and improved techniques. GRS 80 parameters together with available Doppler, satellite laser ranging and very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) observations constituted significant new information. An outstanding new source of data had become available from satellite radar altimetry. Also available was an advanced least squares method called collocation that allowed for a consistent combination solution from different types of measurements all relative to the Earth's gravity field, measurements such as the geoid, gravity anomalies, deflections, and dynamic Doppler. The new world geodetic system was called WGS 84. It is the reference system used by the Global Positioning System. It is geocentric and globally consistent within ±1 m. Current geodetic realizations of the geocentric reference system family International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS) maintained by the IERS are geocentric, and internally consistent, at the few-cm level, while still being metre-level consistent with WGS 84. The WGS 84 originally used the GRS 80 reference ellipsoid, but has undergone some minor refinements in later editions since its initial publication. Most of these refinements are important for high-precision orbital calculations for satellites but have little practical effect on typical topographical uses. The following table lists the primary ellipsoid parameters. The very small difference in the flattening thus results in a tiny difference of 0.105 mm in the semi polar axis.

Longitudes on WGS 84

WGS 84 uses the IERS Reference Meridian as defined by the Bureau International de l'Heure, which was defined by compilation of star observations in different countries. The longitude positions on WGS 84 agree with those on the older North American Datum 1927 at roughly 85° longitude west, in the east-central United States.

All components of WGS84 are regularly updated. The ''Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1984, Its Definition and Relationships With Local Geodetic Systems'' document, initially published in 1984, has been revised in 1997, in 2004 (as three editions of the TR8350.2), and finally in 2014 as the first edition of NGA.STND.0036. The regularly-updated documents provide refined descriptions of the Earth and realizations of the system for higher precision. The geoid component of WGS84 is being continuously updated as a separate Earth Gravitational Model (EGM). * The Earth Gravitational Model 1996 (EGM96) was first published in 1996, with revisions as recent as 2004. The geoid has roughly 100 km resolution versus 200 km for the original WGS 84. The use of EGM96 was confirmed in the 1997 update. * Many of the original authors of WGS 84 contributed to a new higher-fidelity model, called EGM2008. This new model has a geoid with accuracy approaching 10 cm, requiring over 4.6 million terms in the spherical expansion (versus 130,317 in EGM96 and 32,757 in WGS 84). The use of EGM2008 was confirmed in the 2014 update. * An update was planned for EGM2020. The magnetic model is also being regularly updated as World Magnetic Model (WMM). The 2014 update describes WMM2010 as current for its 2010–2015 period. It mentions a plan to release updates to the WGS84 document for WMM 2015 and WMM 2020, but none has been released. The redesigned NGA webpage, on the other hand, indicates that the current WMM and EGM should always be used.

* Degree Confluence Project * EGM96 * ETRS89 * geo URI scheme * Geo (microformat) – for marking up WGS 84 coordinates in (X)HTML * Geotagging * NAD 83 * Point of interest * TRANSIT system

References

''Geodesy for the Layman'', Chapter VIII, "The World Geodetic System"

''Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1984, Its Definition and Relationships With Local Geodetic Systems,'' Third Edition, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. This is the official publication of the standard, including addenda. Note this report actually documents the EGM 96 model (a revision of WGS 84). The original WGS 84 is documented in versions prior to 1996.
Main NGA (was NIMA) page on Earth gravity models

from th
US NOAA National Geodetic Survey GEOID page

GeographicLib
provides a utility GeoidEval (with source code) to evaluate the geoid height for the EGM84, EGM96, and EGM2008 earth gravity models. Here is a
online version of GeoidEval

Spatial reference for EPSG:4326
{{Include-USGov |agency=National Geodetic Survey Category:Coordinate systems Category:Geodesy Category:Global Positioning System Category:Navigation