MAGNET Field: NAD 83 datum details

This article explains the different realizations of NAD 83 used in MAGNET products.

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MAGNET Field: NAD 83 datum details

The NAD 83 datum has eight independent realizations in MAGNET Field with respect to the WGS 84 datum:

  • NAD 83(2011)
  • NAD 83(CORS96)
  • NAD 83(CSRS 1997)
  • NAD 83(CSRS)
  • NAD 83(ITRF96)
  • NAD 83(MA11)
  • NAD 83(PA11)

The original intent was for WGS 84 and NAD 83 to be identical. The mathematical definition of the ellipsoids (WGS 84 and GRS 80) differs slightly due to the choice of defining constants and number of significant figures. The maximum discrepancy between a Cartesian X,Y,Z coordinate projected onto both ellipsoids is 0.1 mm at 45 degrees latitude. So consider the ellipsoids to be identical.

There is some confusion between the WGS 84 and NAD 83 datums. When NAD 83 was first realized in 1986, it used the same control stations as WGS 84, some of which were Doppler stations, which were accurate to about one meter. Consider the datums to be identical.

Since this time, there have been several realizations of WGS 84, the latest being WGS 84(G1150), which was performed using data from IGS tracking stations collected during GPS Week 1150. Recent studies have shown that WGS 84(G1150) is essentially identical to the International Terrestrial Reference Frame of 2000 (ITRF00). Also, during this time there have been no new realizations of NAD 83.

What this means is that WGS 84 and NAD 83 can no longer be considered identical and are in fact different by more than one meter. This is because the WGS 84 datum has been updated over time using GPS, while the NAD 83 datum has remained constant since 1986. However, most software manufacturers still consider WGS 84 to be identical with NAD 83.

To be compatible with other manufacturers, Topcon provides transformation parameters from WGS 84 to NAD 83 where all the parameters are zero. This means WGS 84 equals NAD 83. This set of datum transformation parameters is called NAD83_NO_TRANS.

Topcon also provides another set of datum transformation parameters called NAD 83, which reflects the updates to WGS 84. These parameters are taken from the National Geodetic Survey.

Topcon only uses the first seven parameters, three translations, three rotations, and scale.