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# Journal of Geodesy (2002) 76: 451–454

DOI 10.1007/s00190-002-0273-6

## Direct transformation from geocentric coordinates

to geodetic coordinates
H. Vermeille
1 allée du grand duc, 38240 Meylan, France

## Abstract. The transformation from geocentric coordi- 2.1 Determination of h and u

nates to geodetic coordinates is usually carried out by
iteration. A closed-form algebraic method is proposed, Let us introduce the strictly positive coeﬃcient
valid at any point on the globe and in space, including
the poles, regardless of the value of the ellipsoid’s QS h þ n  e2 n
k¼ ¼
eccentricity. PR n
which allows an algebraic computation, without ambi-
guity, of the values of h and u. We show that k is a
Keywords: Coordinate transformation – Geocentric solution of an algebraic equation of degree 4. From the
coordinates – Geodetic coordinates expression of k, we extract h
h ¼ ðk þ e2  1Þn ð5Þ
and Eq. (3) gives

1 Notation Z
sin u ¼ ð6Þ
kn
a, b, e = semi-major axis, semi-minor axis, eccen- After substitution of sin u from Eq. (6) into Eq. (4)
tricity of reference ellipsoid squared, we extract n
X , Y , Z = Cartesian geocentric coordinates rﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
k, u, h = geodetic longitude, geodetic latitude, geo- Z2
detic height n ¼ a2 þ e 2 2 ð7Þ
k
Squaring Eqs. (1) and (2) and replacing h by its value
given by Eq. (5), we obtain
2 Description of the method
X 2 þ Y 2 ¼ ðh þ nÞ2 cos2 u ¼ ðk þ e2 Þ2 n2 cos2 u
The geocentric coordinates are related to the geodetic
coordinates by the following formulae (see Fig. 1): i.e.
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
X ¼ ðh þ nÞ cos u cos k ð1Þ X2 þ Y2
cos u ¼ ð8Þ
ðk þ e2 Þn
Y ¼ ðh þ nÞ cos u sin k ð2Þ
X 2 þ Y 2 ¼ ðk þ e2 Þ2 n2 ð1  sin2 uÞ
2
Z ¼ ðh þ n  e nÞ sin u ð3Þ
In this equation, by replacing sin u by Eq. (6) and n by
where Eq. (7), we obtain
a X2 þ Y2 ð1  e2 Þ Z 2
n ¼ qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ ð4Þ þ ¼ a2 ð9Þ
1  e2 sin2 u ðk þ e2 Þ 2 k2
452

u
¼1þmþt ð13Þ
r
Equation (12) becomes
t3 þ 3ðmt  1Þðm þ tÞ  2ð1 þ sÞ þ m3 ¼ 0
We may always impose the condition mt ¼ 1, then after
multiplying the previous equation by t3 , the equation is
reduced to

t6  2ð1 þ sÞt3 þ 1 ¼ 0

## Both (positive) solutions of this equation of degree 2 in

t3 will give the same result for u, so we may choose either
of them, for instance
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
Fig. 1. t3 ¼ 1 þ s þ sð2 þ sÞ

whence
Our aim is to solve k from this expression. When we
have solved k, h can be computed with Eqs. (5), (7) and qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
3
(9) and u with Eqs. (6) and (8). Now, if we write t ¼ 1 þ s þ sð2 þ sÞ
X2 þ Y2 On account of Eq. (13) and since we have imposed

a2 mt ¼ 1, then u results in
1  e2 2  
q¼ Z 1
a2 u¼r 1þtþ
t
from Eq. (9) we deduce an algebraic equation of degree
4 in k For this value of u, Eq. (11) is veriﬁed and if we let
k 4 þ 2e2 k 3  ðp þ q  e4 Þ k 2  2e2 q k  e4 q ¼ 0 pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
v ¼ u2 þ e4 q
Whatever the parameter u is, the above equation may be
and substitute the term p þ q  2u of the expression
rewritten as
between square brackets in Eq. (10) by its value
extracted from Eq. (11), we obtain
ðk 2 þ e2 k  uÞ2  ½ðp þ q  2uÞ k 2
 qu 2
þ 2e2 ðq  uÞ k þ u2 þ e4 q ¼ 0 ð10Þ ðk 2 þ e2 k  uÞ2  e2 kþv ¼0
v
The expression between square brackets will be a perfect i.e.
square if its discriminant is null, i.e. if
 vuþq 2  uþvq 2 
e4 ðq  uÞ2  ðu2 þ e4 qÞ ðp þ q  2uÞ ¼ 0 ð11Þ k2 þ e k þ v  u k2 þ e kuv
v v
or, after expansion ¼0
2u3  ðp þ q  e4 Þ u2  e4 p q ¼ 0
Since v  u, v and q are positive, with reference to the
Let us introduce two new parameters r and s ﬁrst expression between brackets in the above equation,
the result cannot be null for a positive value of k. Let us
p þ q  e4 write

6
4p q
uþvq
s¼e 3 w ¼ e2
4r 2v
then the previous equation in u is reduced, after division Therefore the second expression between brackets will
by 2r3 , to be null if

u3 u2 k 2 þ 2wk  u  v ¼ 0
3
 3 2  2s ¼ 0 ð12Þ
r r Since u þ v is positive, the only positive solution of this
This is an equation of degree 3 in u=r which, since s is equation of degree 2 in k is
positive, has one unique real root which, in addition, is pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
positive. Let us write this root in the form k ¼ u þ v þ w2  w
453

## Now, the value of k being known, if we write k sin k sin k

tan ¼ ¼ pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ 2 1 þ cos k cos k þ sin2 k þ cos2 k
k X2 þ Y2

k þ e2 We ﬁnd
using Eq. (7) and replacing a2 by its value given by Eq. Y
(9) we obtain k ¼ 2 arctan pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
Xþ X2 þ Y2
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
D2 þ Z 2

k 3 The algorithm
and then from Eq. (5)
Starting from the Cartesian coordinates X , Y , Z, ﬁrst we
k þ e2  1 pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
ﬃ compute the value of k and D by the following sequence
h¼ D2 þ Z 2
k of formulae
In order to prevent computer problems near the poles, X2 þ Y2
we do not compute u from tangent with Eqs. (6) and (8) p¼
a2
because with u ¼ 90 deg, tan u is not deﬁned, neither 1  e2 2
from sinus with Eqs. (6) and (7) because u ¼ arcsin x is q¼ Z
not accurate ðdu=dx ¼ 1Þ or real (if jxj > 1) with x near a2
1, but from tangent of the half value. Let us substitute
sin u and cos u given by Eqs. (6) and (8) respectively, in p þ q  e4

the following identity 6
4p q
s¼e 3
u sin u sin u 4r
tan ¼ ¼ qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
2 1 þ cos u 3
cos u þ sin2 u þ cos2 u t ¼ 1 þ s þ sð2 þ sÞ
 
We ﬁnd 1
u¼r 1þtþ
t
Z pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
u ¼ 2 arctan pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ v ¼ u 2 þ e4 q
D þ D2 þ Z 2
uþvq
w ¼ e2
2v
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
2.2 Determination of k k ¼ u þ v þ w2  w
Let us now give a formula for k valid for X ¼ 0. First , pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
we substitute sin k and cos k extracted from Eqs. (1) and k X2 þ Y2

(2), respectively, in the following identity: k þ e2

Table 1.
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
X2 þ Y2 Z uarticle harticle uBowring hBowring
m m deg m deg m

00 000 000.000 )6 359 593.314 )90.000 000 000 00 002 841.000 (See note) (See note)
05 442 896.133 03 313 081.153 31.500 000 000 )0 000 394.000 31.500 000 000 )0 000 394.000
26 578 137.000 00 000 000.000 00.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 00.000 000 000 20 200 000.000
26 477 160.722 02 312 729.964 05.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 05.000 000 002 20 200 000.000
26 174 989.441 04 607 941.737 10.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 10.000 000 018 20 200 000.002
25 673 890.779 06 868 244.851 15.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 15.000 000 057 20 200 000.007
24 977 627.324 09 076 503.683 20.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 20.000 000 120 20 200 000.020
24 091 431.413 11 215 963.350 25.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 25.000 000 203 20 200 000.044
23 021 969.796 13 270 373.735 30.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 30.000 000 293 20 200 000.078
21 777 298.135 15 224 110.924 35.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 35.000 000 375 20 200 000.122
20 366 805.351 17 062 295.288 40.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 40.000 000 431 20 200 000.168
18 801 147.859 18 770 905.389 45.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 45.000 000 451 20 200 000.209
17 092 173.807 20 336 886.789 50.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 50.000 000 431 20 200 000.238
15 252 837.537 21 748 254.818 55.000 000 000 20 200 000.000 55.000 000 374 20 200 000.248

Note – The calculator cannot evaluate arctanð1Þ ¼ 90 deg and even with this value of u, h is indeterminate. Bowring (1985) has given a
qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
better expression for h, correct for every u, namely h ¼ R cos u þ Z sin u  a 1  e2 sin2 u: For u ¼ 90 deg, this formula gives
h ¼ 2841:000 m:
454

Next, we compute the geodetic coordinates k, u and h by using Eqs. (1)–(4). With these values as initial data, we
next applied the present algorithm and Bowring’s
Y formulae in order to recover the known values of u
k ¼ 2 arctan pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
X þ X2 þ Y2 and h. The computation was carried out with
Z a ¼ 6 378 137 m and e ¼ 0:081819191. The ﬁrst line of
u ¼ 2 arctan pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
D þ D2 þ Z 2 the table corresponds to the South Pole at the height of
k þ e  1 pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
2 ﬃ 2841 m and the second, to a point in the Dead Sea
h¼ D2 þ Z 2 depression of height 394 m and latitude 31:5 deg
k North. The remaining lines correspond to points at the
constant height of 20 200 km, with latitudes taken every
5 degrees from 0 to þ55 deg.
4 Conclusion All the computations have been performed with a HP
32 SII, 12-digit scientiﬁc calculator.
In Table 1 we give some results obtained with both the Borkowski (1987), (1989), Heikkinen (1982) and
above method and the approximation formulae of Lapaine (1991) have proposed their own solutions
Bowring (1976), namely based also on an equation of degree 4. The resulting
formulae are more complicated than the method
Z þ be0 2 sin3 h described here.
tan u ¼
R  ae2 cos3 h
R a
h¼  qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
cos u References
1  e2 sin2 u

## where Borkowski KM (1987) Transformation of geocentric to geodetic

coordinates without approximations. Astron Space Sci 139: 1–4
b2 Borkowski KM (1989) Accurate algorithms to transform geocen-
e2 ¼ 1  tric to geodetic coordinates. Bull Géod 63: 50–56
a2 Bowring BR (1976) Transformation from spatial to geodetic co-
2 e2 ordinates. Surv Rev 23: 323–327
e0 ¼ Bowring BR (1985) The accuracy of geodetic latitude and height
p  e2
1 ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ equations. Surv Rev 38: 202–206
R ¼ X2 þ Y2 Heikkinen M (1982) Geschlossene Formeln zur Berechnung
räumlicher geodätischer Koordinaten aus rechtwinkligen Ko-
aZ ordinaten. Z Vermess 5: 207–211
tan h ¼
bR Lapaine M (1991) A new direct solution of the transformation
problem of Cartesian into ellipsoidal coordinates. In: Determi-
For various points in space, with known latitude u and
pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ nation of the geoid, IAG Symposia, vol 106. Springer, Berlin
height h, we computed the values of X 2 þ Y 2 and Z Heidelberg New York, pp 395–404