Difference between Altitude and Latitude

Altitude and latitude are widely used terms in the field of geography and astronomy. Most people have heard these terms but are unsure of their exact meaning. The words latitude and altitude have very similar meanings but there is also a key difference between these two. Essentially, both terms are a way of measuring parameters that define the angular position of a location. If you are planning to work in the field of astronomy or geography then consider learning how altitude and latitude are different to each other and when these terms should be used. The distance between the plane of the equator perpendicular to the angular distance on a plane is known as the latitude. Altitude is defined as the standing distance between the datum line and a certain point above that line.


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    Latitude is typically used as one of the two coordinates for a particular location on Earth. For any location under consideration, latitude provides the south and north position. Remember that the line which is latitude goes parallel to the equator of the earth. When combined with longitude, it can be used to find a specific place on the globe. According to science, the Earth’s equator is thought to be positioned at zero (0) latitude. The South and North Pole of the planet are positioned at -90 degrees and + 90 degrees latitude.

    Furthermore, there are some artificial latitudes as well that include the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere, Arctic Circle and Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. Latitude can be further divided into different categories depending on the relative definitions and physical properties. The angle between the surface at a point and the plane of the equator is termed as the Geodetic latitude. Similarly, geocentric latitude is the name given to the angle between the radius of a certain point and the equator. The angle between the true vertical on a point at the place and the equatorial place is termed as the astronomical latitude.

    - Image courtesy:  dictionary.reference.com

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    The datum line for the term altitude can be chosen in a number of ways and therefore we see numerous altitude terms in use. The two most widely used terms are absolute altitude and indicated altitude. Both terms are commonly used in the aviation industry because they offer a way of measuring the height of any point in the atmosphere.

    - Image courtesy: djconnel.blogspot.com

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