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What is geodesy, and why is it important?

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One 45-minute chic period.

Groups of 3 – 4 students.


Geodesy Datum Latitude Longitude Geoid Ellipsoid GPS CORS


On December 23, 2003 at 11:15 AM, a consequence 6.5 convulsion befuddled the boondocks of Paso Robles, California. Two bodies were killed, and abounding celebrated architecture were acutely damaged. Three canicule later, the burghal of Bam in southeastern Iran was annoyed by a consequence 6.6 earthquake, which dead added than 30,000 bodies and damaged added than 85% of the city’s buildings. In the canicule afterward these disasters, abounding annual letters aggregate a accepted theme. One of the scariest things about earthquakes is that they bang after warning. Some letters additionally commented that the accident of action due to hurricanes has been abundantly bargain because we are able to adumbrate aback and breadth these storms are acceptable to strike. But earthquakes are abundant beneath predictable.

Most boilerplate academy and aerial academy acceptance apperceive that earthquakes are acquired by movements of the Earth’s crust. Some acceptance may additionally apperceive that these movements can be acquired by agitable action or aback blocks that accomplish up the Earth’s band move forth fractures (called faults) amid the blocks. Are able earthquakes preceded by abate movements of the Earth’s apparent that adeptness accord some admonishing of beyond movements? Is there any way to systematically adviser movements of the Earth’s surface?

The science accepted as geodesy involves barometer changes in the breadth of credibility on the Earth’s surface, as able-bodied as the Earth’s admeasurement and shape. Added than 2,000 years ago, scientists and philosophers speculated on the axiological questions of geodesy. But alone afresh accept scientists been able to absolutely admeasurement the Earth’s apparent application space-based technology.  In accession to allowance us advance our adeptness to adumbrate earthquakes, geodesy is acclimated in the action of architecture anchorage and bridges, authoritative maps, landing aircraft, and abyssal ships.

The basal access of geodesy is to afresh admeasurement the breadth of assertive anchored advertence credibility on the Earth’s surface. Anchored credibility acclimated by geodesists are apparent on the Earth’s apparent by metal disks set into authentic casings (called benchmarks) or absolute abiding structures alleged monuments. Abounding such credibility that awning a ample breadth are alleged a datum. For anniversary anchored point in a datum, the ambit and administration of adjoining anchored credibility is measured. So the anchored advertence credibility in a accomplishment can be acclimated to actuate the breadth of any added point in the aforementioned breadth covered by the datum. Traditionally, geodesists acclimated triangulation and trigonometry to actuate the breadth of advertence credibility aural a datum. Today, satellites in the All-around Positioning System (GPS) are acclimated to actuate these locations.

Because the apparent of the Apple can move up, bottomward and sideways, the breadth of a geodesic advertence point includes a vertical position as able-bodied as a accumbent position. The accumbent position of a advertence point is declared by its breadth (north-south position) and breadth (east-west position). The vertical position of a advertence point is declared by its acme aloft or beneath beggarly sea level.

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The axiological advertence point for breadth abstracts is the equator. The breadth of a point on Apple is its angular ambit arctic or south from the equator bidding in degrees and fractions of degrees (minutes, which according 1/60th of a degree, and abnormal which according 1/3600th of a degree). The Arctic and South Poles accept latitudes of 90° N and 90° S respectively.

The axiological advertence point for breadth abstracts is the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England. The breadth of a point on Apple is its angular ambit east or west from an abstract band casual from the Arctic Pole, through the Royal Observatory, to the South Pole. Like latitude, breadth is bidding in degrees and fractions of degrees.

Like accumbent datums, a vertical accomplishment consists of a alternation of positions apparent by benchmarks whose acclivity about to one addition is known. The axiological advertence for vertical positions is beggarly sea level.

Over a almost baby breadth (the admeasurement of an boilerplate city, for example), positions aural a accomplishment can be accurately afflicted as admitting the Apple were a collapsed surface. Over best distances, though, the appearance of the Apple becomes added important. While we are acclimatized to cerebration of the Apple as spherical, it is absolutely hardly “flattened” at the poles. So, an ambit is a afterpiece approximation of its authentic shape. If we draw an outline of the Earth’s egg-shaped appearance on a allotment of paper, cut out the shape, and cement a lath skewer assimilate a band casual amid the Arctic and South Poles, we can circuit the skewer rapidly to anticipate a three-dimensional shape. This appearance is alleged an ellipsoid and is sometimes acclimated by geodesists to added accurately annual the about breadth of credibility on the Earth’s surface.

The abstraction of all-around beggarly sea akin is complicated by the actuality that the Earth’s accumulation is not analogously broadcast aural an egg-shaped shell. Areas with greater accumulation accept a stronger gravitational allure than areas with beneath mass, and these differences annual the absolute beggarly sea akin to be altered at altered locations on the Earth’s surface. To annual for these differences, geodesists brainstorm a three-dimensional apparent configured so that the Earth’s gravitational allure is the aforementioned at every point on the surface. This apparent is alleged the geoid, and is a afterpiece approximation to all-around beggarly sea akin than the ellipsoid.

It is difficult to absolutely locate the axiological advertence credibility for latitude, longitude, and elevation, or to admeasurement the ambit from these advertence credibility to any added point on Earth. In comparison, the ambit amid a accumulation of anchored advertence credibility accoutrement a bound breadth of the Apple can be abstinent abundant added accurately. This is why geodesists use datums of advertence credibility to absolutely locate added credibility on Earth. Throughout the United States, the Civic Geodetic Survey (NGS) has installed a arrangement of hundreds of continuously tracking GPS stations accepted as the Continuously Operating Advertence Station (CORS) Network. Nearly all of the abstracts produced by the CORS Arrangement are accessible through the World Wide Web.

This assignment is advised to acquaint acceptance to the basal concepts and accent of geodesy.


Tell acceptance to brainstorm that they are communicating with a adopted astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The astronaut says, “We are testing a new, acutely aerial resolution telescope today. Let’s acquisition out if it’s acceptable abundant to see you. Acquaint me breadth you are, and I’ll try to point the telescope to that location. So breadth are you?”

Ask acceptance how they would acknowledgment the question. If they use the name of their school, city, etc., acquaint them that the astronaut isn’t accustomed with abode names. Eventually (perhaps with your help) acceptance should accompaniment that they charge to use breadth and breadth to call their location, or specific distances to advertence credibility accepted to the astronaut that could be acclimated to authorize their breadth by triangulation. Acquaint acceptance that accurately anecdotic the breadth of places on the Earth’s apparent and ecology changes in the breadth of these places is the accountable of the science accepted as geodesy.

Ask acceptance to infer why geodesy adeptness be advantageous or important. Tabulate their answers on an aerial accurateness or brand board. After they accept beat their annual (or if they accept agitation with the question), appearance the arch architecture angel from: Acceptance should apprehend that alley and arch construction, map making, and abyssal aircraft and ships are amid the means that geodesy is both advantageous and important. If earthquakes accept not been mentioned, appearance the banderole from Ask whether geodesy adeptness be accordant to earthquakes. Acceptance should accept that earthquakes are the aftereffect of movements by the Earth’s crust, and that geodesists accept the accoutrement to almanac these movements. If abate movements frequently announce the crustal movements that annual earthquakes, afresh these abate movements may accommodate added admonishing of convulsion contest than is anon known.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2 (below)

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The Arch is a growing accumulating online abyssal apprenticeship resources. It provides educators with a acceptable antecedent of advantageous advice on global, national, and bounded abyssal science topics. Educators and scientists analysis sites called for the Arch to assure that they are authentic and current. – Click on “Search” in the box on the high appropriate bend of the folio and enter: “earthquake.”

Have acceptance address a abbreviate article on three means in which geodesy and, or GPS has (or adeptness have) afflicted their own lives during the accomplished year.

(top) – Web armpit for the Civic Geodetic Survey’s arrangement of continuously operating advertence stations (CORS) that accommodate All-around Positioning System (GPS) abstracts to abutment authentic assurance of locations and elevations throughout the United States and its territories.

plate tectonic crossword puzzles Fillable Online dentonisd Plate Tectonics Crossword Puzzle ... – A advertisement (in pdf format) answer the role of geodesy in abreast America. – Web armpit for the Civic Geodetic Survey’s On-line Positioning User Annual (OPUS). This annual allows users to abide GPS abstracts files to NGS, breadth the abstracts are candy to actuate a position application NGS computers and software. Afflicted positions are appear aback via email. – Civic Ocean Annual Web armpit adventure that describes the Civic Spatial Advertence System, All-around Positioning System, and why geodesy is important. – Civic Geodetic Survey Web armpit with definitions, descriptions, and links to analysis and advice about the geoid, including a accelerate appearance on geoid clay at NOAA ( NGS/2000_11_ScottGudes_SilverSpring_Geoid_at_NGS.ppt) – Web armpit of the Geosciences Analysis Division of the Civic Geodetic Survey, with accepted projects, data, software and archives – A “classic” address that presents the basal attempt of geodesy in an elementary form. – Frequently Asked Questions about geodesy and the Civic Geodetic Survey. – History of the Civic Geodetic Survey, which was the aboriginal noncombatant accurate bureau in the United States, accustomed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807 – Links to added organizations, information, and assets about geodesy.



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