What Is the Geographic Grid?

By Tamara Runzel; Updated April 24, 2017
The geographic grid uses lines and coordinates to divide the Earth into equal parts.

Even with billions of people living on Earth, you could pinpoint the location of each person in a building or city. It may take a lot of time, but you could do it by using a set of lines and coordinates called the geographic grid.

Background

Ptolemy, a Roman mathematician, geographer, astronomer and astrologer, created the geographic grid sometime in the second century.

Facts

The geographic grid uses latitude and longitude lines. Latitude lines are invisible lines that run east to west around Earth. Longitude lines run north to south around the length of Earth.

Specifics

Both latitude and longitude lines divide the Earth into 180 equal sections from north to south (latitude) and from east to west (longitude). The lines are measures in degrees.

Features

The equator, which falls halfway between the North and South Poles at zero degrees latitude, marks the center of the Earth from north to south. The prime meridian, which goes through Greenwich, England, at zero degrees longitude marks the center of the Earth from east to west.

Misconceptions

Understanding latitude and longitude can be confusing. Although latitude lines run from east to west, they give a north/south location. Longitude lines, while running from north to south, give an east/west location.

Uses

Pilots or ship captains use latitude and longitude lines to find the shortest distance between two points. You can also use the geographic grid to give a specific location, by giving the intersection of the latitude and longitude lines at that point.

About the Author

Tamara Runzel has been writing military, parenting, family and relationship articles since 2008. Runzel started in television news, followed by education before deciding to be a stay at home mom. Her articles have appeared in military publications as well as numerous online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from University of the Pacific.