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Google Earth Introduction: Latitude/Longitude Data

Importing GIS data into Google Earth

Geographic Coordinates

Users can import text files with geographic (latitude/longitude) coordinates into Google Earth Pro and Enterprise editions.

Many forms of latitude/longitude coordinates are supported (scroll down on help page).

GPS Data

The Google Earth Guide has detailed information regarding importing GPS data directly into Google Earth. With Version 5, you can now import GPS coordinates into the free version of Google Earth.

You can either upload data directly from selected GPS units into Google Earth, or open a previously saved .GPX file of GPS data.

Example: Latitude/Longitude Data

pop	latitude	longitude       hap1	hap2	hap3
popA 35.929673 -78.948237 3 2 5
popB 38.889510 -77.032000 5 1 4
popC 38.032120 -78.477510 0 1 9
popD 36.379450 -75.830290 7 2 1

Lat/Long data

Files from the following locations may be large and cause problems if imported as-is into Google Earth.  Data can be pared down in spreadsheet or statistical software (e.g., limiting to certain feature types) before importing.

Many of these featues are not already labeled or not clearly visible in the Google Earth database, so it can be a good way of adding more information.

  • U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN): Download delimited text files of named features on USGS topographic maps.  Includes latitude/longitude coordinates sometimes up to 7 places past the decimal.
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Country Files: Tab-delimited text files of named features on U.S. military maps (probably approximately the features you'd find on a 1:250,000 scale map or chart).  Includes decimal latitude and longitude coordinates sometimes up to 6 places past the decimal.


PhyloGeoViz is a web based application written by Duke student Erica Tsai, sponsored by NESCent and Google Summer of Code 2007.

Although written for an evolutionary biology application, it can be used to plot "any sort of frequency data with a geographic component."

Data must be in tabular format, with columns for latitude and longitude values (decimal degrees, negative values for south or west) and more columns representing the variables for which counts exist.  Each row in the table represents a location (i.e., point) where the data was collected (e.g., survey point).

The application translates the data into a Google Earth .kml file, with frequencies for each point represented as proportional slices of a pie.  Some fine tuning of the visulaization (color, size of pie, etc.) can be done in the PhyloGeoViz, and more fine tuning can be done after opening in Google Earth.

To see an example using the data with Latitude/Longitude coordinates above, if you have the Google Earth Browser Plug-In, go to the "Embed Google Earth Views tab in this guide.

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Mark Thomas
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