Australia on the move: how GPS keeps up with a continent in constant motion

Up a bit, right a bit. Australia’s always on the move. Pic: Shuttershock/Jayjune.



By Anthony Wallace

Nothing on the Earth’s solid surface is static because all land is moving very slowly due to continental drift. This very slow movement affects everything around you in the same way so you can’t tell it is happening, unless you are able to very accurately measure where on the Earth’s surface you are.

The Australian continent, perched on the planet’s fastest moving tectonic plate, is drifting at about seven centimetres a year to the northeast. This is taking features marked on our maps out of line with the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) such as GPS.

These global systems guide our smartphones, cars and other geopositioning devices used in sectors such as construction, transport, mining, agriculture and surveying.

How can we keep our map coordinates up to date? That is a challenge faced by today’s geodesists.


Read more here.

This story first appeared on Spatial Source. 

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