[Proj] NAD 27 v 83 Distances

Clifford J Mugnier cjmce at lsu.edu
Fri Oct 1 14:42:08 EST 2010

Because it is the current legal datum of the United States, and it is based in part on artificial satellite observations.  The semi-major axis of the GRS80 ellipsoid has been proven to be correct within a few centimeters based on decades of observing GPS orbits.
NAD27 is referenced to an ellipsoid computed by hand and published by COL Alexander Ross Clark, R.E. in 1866.
Since this is a discussion of distances, NAD83 is closest to the truth as a matter of scale and shape.
Best regards,
Clifford J. Mugnier, C.P., C.M.S.
Chief of Geodesy,
Center for GeoInformatics
Department of Civil Engineering 
Patrick F. Taylor Hall 3223A
Baton Rouge, LA  70803
Voice and Facsimile:  (225) 578-8536 [Academic] 
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Cell: (225) 238-8975 [Academic & Research]
Honorary Life Member of the 
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Fellow Emeritus of the ASPRS 
Member of the Americas Petroleum Survey Group


From: proj-bounces at lists.maptools.org on behalf of strebe at aol.com
Sent: Fri 01-Oct-10 14:26
To: proj at lists.maptools.org
Subject: Re: [Proj] NAD 27 v 83 Distances

>The difference of distances should be modest between the two datums, with of
>course the NAD83 distances being the better of the two. 

Why would NAD83 be the better of the two?

- daan Strebe

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank Warmerdam <warmerdam at pobox.com>
To: PROJ.4 and general Projections Discussions <proj at lists.maptools.org>
Sent: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 9:28 am
Subject: Re: [Proj] NAD 27 v 83 Distances

Robert McFaul wrote:
> Hi,
> I'm concerned about whether ground surface distances are different between
> NAD27 and NAD83. I'm in California (southern) and thinking about a 
> conversion
> of a project to NAD83. I have some cross section distances measured (1000 to
> 3000 feet in length) and suddenly am wondering what sort of differences 
> might
> be involved by this change in systems.


The difference of distances should be modest between the two datums, with of
course the NAD83 distances being the better of the two.  I did a test for a
random point in southern california and the change is datum shift deltas over
one kilometer was about 1cm.  You can do similar tests for any area of interest:

cs2cs -f '%.4f' +proj=utm +zone=11 +datum=NAD27 +to +proj=utm +zone=11 
440000 3750000
439919.4833     3750196.3019 0.0000
440000 3751000
439919.4784     3751196.3100 0.0000

Best regards,

I set the clouds in motion - turn up   | Frank Warmerdam, warmerdam at pobox.com
light and sound - activate the windows | http://pobox.com/~warmerdam
and watch the world go round - Rush    | Geospatial Programmer for Rent

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