How to choose a co-ordinate transformation in ArcGIS
When you try and reproject a dataset in ArcGIS (for example, by using the Project Raster tool) you will see a dialog a bit like the one below:
The highlighted field wants you to specific a Geographic Tranformation. Although it says that it is optional, it often isn’t (I think the optionality depends on the type of transformation you’re trying to do). I’ve often found that there are a number of items available in the dropdown box and I have absolutely no idea which one to choose!
For example, when converting from OSGB to WGS84 there are the following options:
How on earth should you choose one of these? Until now I had been choosing semi-randomly – picking one, seeing if the result looks good, if not then trying another. However, the other day I found out about a list of these transformations in the ArcGIS documentation – available to download from the ArcGIS documentation page. This document (available for each different version of ArcGIS) lists all of the transformations available in ArcGIS and their theoretical accuracy. So, for example, we can find out that OSGB_1936_To_WGS_1984_2 is meant to cover England only, and OSGB_1936_To_WGS_1984_4 is for Scotland. The accuracies seem to be around 20m for each transform, although OSGB_1936_To_WGS_1984_5 (for Wales) has an accuracy of 35m.
I can’t believe I’d never come across this resource before – it allows me to actually make intelligent decisions about which transformation to use. I’d strongly suggest you get familiar with this document.
(I’d like to thank the GIS.SE users who helped me with a question I asked related to this problem)