Strong motion data from western North America for earthquakes of magnitude greater than 5 are examined to provide the basis for estimating peak acceleration, velocity, displacement, and duration as a function of distance for three magnitude classes. A subset of the data (from the San Fernando earthquake) is used to assess the effects of structural size and of geologic site conditions on peak motions recorded at the base of structures. Small but statistically significant differences are observed in peak values of horizontal acceleration, velocity and displacement recorded on soil at the base of small structures compared with values recorded at the base of large structures. The peak acceleration tends to b3e less and the peak velocity and displacement tend to be greater on the average at the base of large structures than at the base of small structures. In the distance range used in the regression analysis (15-100 km) the values of peak horizontal acceleration recorded at soil sites in the San Fernando earthquake are not significantly different from the values recorded at rock sites, but values of peak horizontal velocity and displacement are significantly greater at soil sites than at rock sites.
Some consideration is given to the prediction of ground motions at close distances where there are insufficient recorded data points. As might be expected from the lack of data, published relations for predicting peak horizontal acceleration give widely divergent estimates at close distances (three well known relations predict accelerations between 0.33 g to slightly over 1 g at a distance of 5 km from a magnitude 6.5 earthquake). After considering the physics of the faulting process, the few available data close to faults, and the modifying effects of surface topography, at the present time it would be difficult to accept estimates less than about 0.8 g, 110 cm/s, and 40 cm, respectively, for the mean values of peak acceleration, velocity, and displacement at rock sites within 5 km of fault rupture in a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. These estimates can be expected to change as more data become available.