Where can I find the list of projections and their arguments?

There is no simple single location to find all the required information. The !PostScript/PDF documents listed on the [http://trac.osgeo.org/proj/wiki main] PROJ.4 page under documentation are the authoritative source but projections and options are spread over several documents in a form more related to their order of implementation than anything else.

The ‘’‘proj’‘’ command itself can report the list of projections using the ‘’‘-lp’‘’ option, the list of ellipsoids with the ‘’‘-le’‘’ option, the list of units with the ‘’‘-lu’‘’ option, and the list of built-in datums with the ‘’‘-ld’‘’ option.

The [http://www.remotesensing.org/geotiff/proj_list/ GeoTIFF Projections Pages] include most of the common PROJ.4 projections, and a definition of the projection specific options for each.

  • How do I do datum shifts between NAD27 and NAD83?

While the ‘’‘nad2nad’‘’ program can be used in some cases, the ‘’‘cs2cs’‘’ is now the preferred mechanism. The following example demonstrates using the default shift parameters for NAD27 to NAD83:

% cs2cs +proj=latlong +datum=NAD27 +to +proj=latlong +datum=NAD83 -117 30


117d0'2.901"W   30d0'0.407"N 0.000

In order for datum shifting to work properly the various grid shift files must be available. See below. More details are available in the [wiki:GenParms#nadgrids-GridBasedDatumAdjustments General Parameters] document.

How do I build/configure PROJ.4 to support datum shifting?

After downloading and unpacking the PROJ.4 source, also download and unpack the set of datum shift files. See Download for instructions how to fetch and install these files

On Windows the extra nadshift target must be used. For instance nmake /f makefile.vc nadshift in the proj/src directory.

A default build and install on Unix will normally build knowledge of the directory where the grid shift files are installed into the PROJ.4 library (usually /usr/local/share/proj). On Windows the library is normally built thinking that C:PROJNAD is the installed directory for the grid shift files. If the built in concept of the PROJ.4 data directory is incorrect, the PROJ_LIB environment can be defined with the correct directory.

How do I debug problems with NAD27/NAD83 datum shifting?

  1. Verify that you have the binary files (eg. /usr/local/share/proj/conus) installed on your system. If not, see the previous question.

  2. Try a datum shifting operation in relative isolation, such as with the cs2cs command listed above. Do you get reasonable results? If not it is likely the grid shift files aren’t being found. Perhaps you need to define PROJ_LIB?

  3. The cs2cs command and the underlying pj_transform() API know how to do a grid shift as part of a more complex coordinate transformation; however, it is imperative that both the source and destination coordinate system be defined with appropriate datum information. That means that implicitly or explicitly there must be a +datum= clause, a +nadgrids= clause or a +towgs84= clause. For instance cs2cs +proj=latlong +datum=NAD27 +to +proj=latlong +ellps=WGS84 won’t work because defining the output coordinate system as using the ellipse WGS84 isn’t the same as defining it to use the datum WGS84 (use +datum=WGS84). If either the input or output are not identified as having a datum, the datum shifting (and ellipsoid change) step is just quietly skipped!

  4. The PROJ_DEBUG environment can be defined (any value) to force extra output from the PROJ.4 library to stderr (the text console normally) with information on what data files are being opened and in some cases why a transformation fails.

    export PROJ_DEBUG=ON
    cs2cs ...


    PROJ_DEBUG support is not yet very mature in the PROJ.4 library.

  5. The -v flag to cs2cs can be useful in establishing more detail on what parameters being used internally for a coordinate system. This will include expanding the definition of +datum clause.

How do I use EPSG coordinate system codes with PROJ.4?

There is somewhat imperfect translation between 2d geographic and projected coordinate system codes and PROJ.4 descriptions of the coordinate system available in the epsg definition file that normally lives in the proj/nad directory. If installed (it is installed by default on Unix), it is possible to use EPSG numbers like this:

% cs2cs -v +init=epsg:26711
# ---- From Coordinate System ----
#Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM)
#       Cyl, Sph
#       zone= south
# +init=epsg:26711 +proj=utm +zone=11 +ellps=clrk66 +datum=NAD27 +units=m
# +no_defs +nadgrids=conus,ntv1_can.dat
#--- following specified but NOT used
# +ellps=clrk66
# ---- To Coordinate System ----
#Lat/long (Geodetic)
# +proj=latlong +datum=NAD27 +ellps=clrk66 +nadgrids=conus,ntv1_can.dat

The proj/nad/epsg file can be browsed and searched in a text editor for coordinate systems. There are known to be problems with some coordinate systems, and any coordinate systems with odd axes, a non-greenwich prime meridian or other quirkyness are unlikely to work properly. Caveat Emptor!

How do I use 3 parameter and 7 parameter datum shifting

Datum shifts can be approximated with 3 and 7 parameter transformations. Their use is more fully described in the [wiki:GenParms#towgs84-DatumtransformationtoWGS84 towgs84] parameter discussion.

Does PROJ.4 work in different international numeric locales?

No. PROJ.4 makes extensive use of sprintf() and atof() internally to translate numeric values. If a locale is in effect that modifies formatting of numbers, altering the role of commas and periods in numbers, then PROJ.4 will not work. This problem is common in some European locales.

On unix-like platforms, this problem can be avoided by forcing the use of the default numeric locale by setting the LC_NUMERIC environment variable to C.

$ export LC_NUMERIC=C
$ proj ...


NOTE: Per ticket #49, in PROJ 4.7.0 and later pj_init() operates with locale overridden to “C” to avoid most locale specific processing for applications using the API. Command line tools may still have issues.

Changing Ellipsoid / Why can’t I convert from WGS84 to Google Earth / Virtual Globe Mercator?

The coordinate system definition for Google Earth, and Virtual Globe Mercator is as follows, which uses a sphere as the earth model for the Mercator projection.

+proj=merc +a=6378137 +b=6378137 +lat_ts=0.0 +lon_0=0.0
     +x_0=0.0 +y_0=0 +k=1.0 +units=m +no_defs

But, if you do something like:

cs2cs +proj=latlong +datum=WGS84
    +to +proj=merc +a=6378137 +b=6378137 +lat_ts=0.0 +lon_0=0.0
                   +x_0=0.0 +y_0=0 +k=1.0 +units=m +no_defs

to convert between WGS84 and mercator on the sphere there will be substantial shifts in the Y mercator coordinates. This is because internally cs2cs is having to adjust the lat/long coordinates from being on the sphere to being on the WGS84 datum which has a quite differently shaped ellipsoid.

In this case, and many other cases using spherical projections, the desired approach is to actually treat the lat/long locations on the sphere as if they were on WGS84 without any adjustments when using them for converting to other coordinate systems. The solution is to “trick” PROJ.4 into applying no change to the lat/long values when going to (and through) WGS84. This can be accomplished by asking PROJ to use a null grid shift file for switching from your spherical lat/long coordinates to WGS84.

cs2cs +proj=latlong +datum=WGS84 \
    +to +proj=merc +a=6378137 +b=6378137 +lat_ts=0.0 +lon_0=0.0 \
    +x_0=0.0 +y_0=0 +k=1.0 +units=m +nadgrids=@null +no_defs

Note the strategic addition of +nadgrids=@null to the spherical projection definition.

Similar issues apply with many other datasets distributed with projections based on a spherical earth model - such as many NASA datasets. This coordinate system is now known by the EPSG code 3857 and has in the past been known as EPSG:3785 and EPSG:900913. When using this coordinate system with GDAL/OGR it is helpful to include the +wktext so the exact proj.4 string will be preserved in the WKT representation (otherwise key parameters like +nadgrids=@null will be dropped):

+proj=merc +a=6378137 +b=6378137 +lat_ts=0.0 +lon_0=0.0 +x_0=0.0 +y_0=0 +k=1.0
           +units=m +nadgrids=@null +wktext  +no_defs

Why do I get different results with 4.5.0 and 4.6.0?

The default datum application behavior changed with the 4.6.0 release. PROJ.4 will now only apply a datum shift if both the source and destination coordinate system have valid datum shift information.

From the PROJ.4 4.6.0 Release Notes (in NEWS):
  • MAJOR: Rework pj_transform() to avoid applying ellipsoid to ellipsoid transformations as a datum shift when no datum info is available.

How do I calculate distances/directions on the surface of the earth?

These are called geodesic calculations. There is a page about it here: [wiki:GeodesicCalculations]

What is the HEALPix projection and how can I use it?


The HEALPix projection is area preserving and can be used with a spherical and ellipsoidal model. It was initially developed for mapping cosmic background microwave radiation. The image below is the graphical representation of the mapping and consists of eight isomorphic triangular interrupted map graticules. The north and south contains four in which straight meridians converge polewards to a point and unequally spaced horizontal parallels. HEALPix provides a mapping in which points of equal latitude and equally spaced longitude are mapped to points of equal latitude and equally spaced longitude with the module of the polar interruptions. ||

To run a forward HEALPix projection on a unit sphere model, use the following command:

proj +proj=healpix +lon_0=0 +a=1 -E <<EOF
0 0

Output of the above command.

0 0 0.00 0.00

What is the rHEALPix projection and how can I use it?


rHEALPix is a projection based on the HEALPix projection. The implementation of rHEALPix uses the HEALPix projection. The rHEALPix combines the peaks of the HEALPix into a square. The square’s position can be translated and rotated across the x-axis which is a noval approach for the rHEALPix projection. The initial intention of using rHEALPix in the Spatial Computation Engine Science Collaboration Environment (SCENZGrid).

To run a inverse rHEALPix projection on a WGS84 ellipsoidal model, use the following command:

proj +proj=rhealpix -f '%.2f' -I +lon_0=0 +a=1 +ellps=WGS84 +npole=0 +spole=0 -E <<EOF
0 0.7853981633974483

Where spole and npole are integers from the range of 0 to 3 inclusive and represent the positions of the north polar and south polar squares.

Output of above command:

0 0.7853981633974483 0.00 41.94

What options does proj.4 allow for the shape of the Earth (geodesy)?

See https://github.com/OSGeo/proj.4/blob/master/src/pj_ellps.c for possible ellipse options. For example, putting +ellps=WGS84 uses the WGS84 Earth shape.

What if I want a spherical Earth?

Use +ellps=sphere. See https://github.com/OSGeo/proj.4/blob/master/src/pj_ellps.c for the radius used in this case.

How do I change the radius of the Earth? How do I use proj.4 for work on Mars?

You can supply explicit values for the semi minor and semi major axes instead of using the symbolic “sphere” value. Eg, if the radius were 2000000m:

+proj=laea +lon_0=-40.000000 +lat_0=74.000000 +x_0=1000000 +y_0=1700000 +a=2000000 +b=2000000"

How do I do False Eastings and False Northings?

Use +x_0 and +y_0 in the projection string.