Desktop 10.3.1 GCS: WGS 1984

Created a Buffer of points based on a pre-specified radius from the points attribute table.

It appears all of the buffers were created with a decimal degree unit of measure.... How do I change the units of the buffer layer to miles?

2 Answers 2


Riffing off what @scw wrote, the buffer process will take the appended unit ("# Miles") as an input as per the ArcPy script:

arcpy.Buffer_analysis("input_points", "C:/workspace/points_buffered_10mi.shp", "10 Miles")

You could create a new string field with field calculator where you take the distance number and add " Miles" to it. The field calculation would look like (in python):

str(!field!) + " Miles"

You should then have a string field of "## Miles". Point to that new field as the distance field when you run the buffer and it should work.

EDIT: I just confirmed that this works. I made a group of points and assigned them random numbers, did the concatenation. Ran through the buffer just fine. My table looks like this: enter image description here

EDIT 2, for posterity: The details on this can be found on the ArcGIS resource site here: Buffer (Analysis)


It isn't clear exactly how you created your buffers from your question, but my guess is that you're trying to use attributes of the PointGeometry representation and using the buffer function included with that representation. By default, that buffer function is limited to buffering in the same units as the input data, which in your case with unprojected geographic data, doesn't make sense -- a unit of degree varies with both latitude and longitude.

The easiest thing to do is to use the Buffer tool, which takes a linear unit for the parameter buffer_distance_or_field, and will automatically create geodesic buffers if passed in miles:

import arcpy
arcpy.Buffer_analysis("input_points", "C:/workspace/points_buffered_10mi.shp", "10 Miles")

Here's the set of linear units buffer will understand: 'Centimeters', 'Decimal degrees', 'Decimeters', 'Feet', 'Inches', 'Kilometers', 'Meters', 'Miles', 'Millimeters', 'Nautical Miles', 'Yards'

  • My apologies.... yes, I used the buffer analysis too. The thing is, the input data for the points has a field indicating what the buffer of each point should be (they are all different - there are A LOT of points).. I realize that the buffering units are the same as the input data, but the data gathered for the radius field is supposed to be in miles. so all of my buffers came out super tiny
    – CDG
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 14:57
  • see @Wes' answer for an approach to add a new column to the dataset you can use as an input to Buffer so that it'll correctly buffer the distances in miles
    – scw
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 17:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.