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Question with Rhumb Line Distance from Mapping Toolbox

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Trung Ngo
Trung Ngo on 15 May 2019
Edited: Ryan Klots on 22 May 2019
I am having a trouble with the geographical distance between 2 coordinates from Matlab's Mapping Toolbox. When I included the referenceEllipsoid('World Geodetic System 1984') to make my calculation more precise, the difference between the 2 output values is huge.
%Input Coordinates
%Distance calculation
arclen_check1 = distance('rh',startLat,startLon,latC,lonC);
arclen_check2 = distance('rh',startLat,startLon,latC,lonC,referenceEllipsoid('World Geodetic System 1984'));
Can anyone please explain why the output value between arclen_check1 and arclen_check2 is significantly different. I visitted the Matlab Reference Help but still confused with that.
Thanks for your time reading this

Accepted Answer

Ryan Klots
Ryan Klots on 22 May 2019
Edited: Ryan Klots on 22 May 2019
When you do not specify a reference ellipsoid, the distance function computes the distance between two points on the sphere and returns the answer as an arclength in degrees (angular units).
arclen_check1 = distance('rh',startLat,startLon,latC,lonC); % Answer in degrees
When you specify a reference ellipsoid, it doesn't make sense to return the answer in angular units. Instead, it returns the distance using the same units as the reference ellipsoid itself.
e = wgs84Ellipsoid
e.LengthUnit % 'meter'
This can be verified by using the deg2km function:
arclen_check2 = distance('rh',startLat,startLon,latC,lonC,e); % Answer in meters
arclen1InMeters = deg2km(arclen_check1) * 1000; % Should be close to "arclen_check2"

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