United States National Grid

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The United States National Grid (USNG) is a point reference system of grid references commonly used in the United States. It provides a nationally consistent language of location in a user friendly format. It is similar in design to the national grid reference systems used throughout other nations. The USNG was developed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee.


The purpose of the USNG according to the FGDC, is to "create a more interoperable environment for developing location-based services within the United States and to increase the interoperability of location services appliances with printed map products by establishing a nationally consistent grid reference system as the preferred grid for NSDI applications. The U.S. National Grid is based on universally-defined coordinate and grid systems and can, therefore, be easily extended for use worldwide as a universal grid reference system." [1]

It resembles the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS). When the WGS84 datum or NAD83 datum is used, USNG and MGRS coordinates are "equivalent"[2]

In addition, it has the advantage of being easily plotted on USGS topographic and other properly gridded maps by using a simple "read right and then up" convention where the user measures to the East and then North in linear increments. The coordinates are easily translated to distance as they are actually in meters rather than the more complex degree based increments of latitude and longitude. Thus the distance between two coordinates can quickly be determined in the field.

USNG 1 km2 grid statewide polygons for select states can be downloaded from http://usngcenter.org. The website also provides more detailed information about the US National Grid.

USNG allows a common system based on the US Military Grid system using landmarks like hills or streams, anything permanent. It allows these maps to be printed anywhere by responders totally unfamiliar with the local area. The degree of precision is determined by the number of digits in the coordinates, 23 67 = 1000 meters, 23451 67345 = 1 meter.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Cavell, J. Anthony. "A Guide to using the USNG", The American Surveyor, 2005. Retrieved on 14 September 2012.
  • FGDC, United States National Grid (USNG), December 2001, Reston, Virginia, 1 megabyte PDF
  • Cavell, J. Anthony. “A Guide to using the USNG”, The American Surveyor, 2005. PDF

External links