Geospatial Distance Between Two Points in R (Example)
In this article, I’ll illustrate how to calculate different types of geographical distance metrics in the R programming language.
The page looks as follows:
Here’s the step-by-step process.
Constructing Example Data
The first step is to create some example data:
my_points <- matrix(c(77.65465, 91.54323, # Create longitude/latitude matrix 21.35444, 17.65465), nrow = 2) colnames(my_points) <- c("longitude", "latitude") rownames(my_points) <- c("pt_1", "pt_2") my_points # Print longitude/latitude matrix
Table 1 shows the structure of our example data: It is composed of two geographical latitude and longitude points.
In this tutorial, I’ll show different ways on how to measure the geospatial distance between these two points in R.
Let’s do this!
Example 1: Calculate Geospatial Distance Using geosphere Package
This example explains how to compute different measures of distance in the R programming language.
All distance metrics that I’ll explain in this tutorial are provided by the geosphere add-on package.
We first have to install and load the geosphere package to RStudio, if we want to use the corresponding functions:
install.packages("geosphere") # Install geosphere package library("geosphere") # Load geosphere package
Now, we can use the different distance functions provided by the geosphere package. Besides others, we can calculate the Haversine distance…
distHaversine(my_points) # Calculate Haversine distance #  1513707
…the Law of Cosines distance…
distCosine(my_points) # Calculate Law of Cosines distance #  1513707
…the Meeus distance…
distMeeus(my_points) # Calculate Meeus distance #  1513607
…the distance along a rhumb line…
distRhumb(my_points) # Calculate rhumb distance #  1514123
…the Vincenty ellipsoid distance…
distVincentyEllipsoid(my_points) # Calculate Vincenty ellipsoid distance #  1513608
…and the Vincenty sphere distance:
distVincentySphere(my_points) # Calculate Vincenty sphere distance #  1513707
Not all the previously used distance metrics return the same result. However, the differences between the metrics are not very large.
Example 2: Calculate Geospatial Distance Matrix Using distm() Function
The geosphere package also provides the possibility to create a distance matrix. This is especially useful when you are dealing with many longitude and latitude points.
For this, we can use the distm function of the geosphere package.
In this example, I’ll explain how to calculate the distance on an ellipsoid by specifying the fun argument to be equal to distGeo. However, we may use any other function that I have explained in this tutorial as distance metric.
Let’s apply the distm function in R:
dist_mat <- distm(my_points, fun = distGeo) # Apply distm function dist_mat # Print distance matrix
After running the previous syntax the distance matrix shown in Table 2 has been created.
Video & Further Resources
Would you like to know more about geospatial distances? Then I can recommend watching the following video of my YouTube channel. In the video, I’m explaining the content of this article:
The YouTube video will be added soon.
Furthermore, you may have a look at the other articles about measuring geographical distances in R that I have published on my homepage:
- Haversine Great Circle Distance
- Law of Cosines Great Circle Distance
- Meeus Great Circle Distance
- Distance Along Rhumb Line
- Vincenty Ellipsoid Great Circle Distance
- Vincenty Sphere Great Circle Distance
Summary: This tutorial has illustrated how to compute geographical distance metrics in R programming. In case you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section.
8 Comments. Leave new
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Statistics Globe Newsletter
small error in syntax
distm(my_points, fun = distGeo) # Apply distm function
dist_mat # Print distance matrix
dist_mat<-distm(my_points, fun = distGeo) # Apply distm function
dist_mat # Print distance matrix
Thanks a lot for finding this error! 🙂 I have just updated the code.
is there any way to see the coding for the function distHaversine? My information about the Haversine formula is that it is pretty simple. However, I get a discrepancy between the result printed here and what I calculate with the Haversine formula. My result is 1544021 not 1513707 (I assume the output is meters).
Hi again 🙂
Generally speaking: In RStudio, you can get the source code of every function by marking the function and pressing the F2 key (more information).
The distHaversine has the following source code:
Thanks for your post. I have a dataset with 60 000 points that depict a river course (pixel extracts from satellite image). The pixels are ordered ascendingly from source to outlet with an ID and each pixel has latitude and longitude. I need to know the distance in meters between two consecutive points. I fail to use distm() since it would result in a hugh matrix that exceeds the computer’s memory. How can I deal with this ? Many thanks.
Thanks for the interesting comment!
Maybe you could create lagged variables for your latitude and longitude, and then you could use one of the apply functions to calculate the distm for each row?
Hi, I’m applying ” dist_mat<-distm(my_points, fun = distGeo) # Apply distm function
dist_mat # Print distance matrix " on my data points matrix and getting an error: Error in .pointsToMatrix(x) : longitude < -360
Could you please help?
I am not familiar with this package, unfortunately. But I found a discussion on GitHub, which seems related to your issue. If it doesn’t help, feel free to post your question on our Facebook discussion group page.