One of the major challenges in engineering seismology is the reliable prediction of site-specific ground motion for particular earthquakes, observed at specific distances. For larger events, a special problem arises, at short distances, with the source-to-site distance measure, because distance metrics based on a point-source model are no longer appropriate. As a consequence, different attenuation relations differ in the distance metric that they use. In addition to being a source of confusion, this causes problems to quantitatively compare or combine different ground-motion models; for example, in the context of Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment, in cases where ground-motion models with different distance metrics occupy neighboring branches of a logic tree. In such a situation, very crude assumptions about source sizes and orientations often have to be used to be able to derive an estimate of the particular metric required. Even if this solves the problem of providing a number to put into the attenuation relation, a serious problem remains. When converting distance measures, the corresponding uncertainties map onto the estimated ground motions according to the laws of error propagation. To make matters worse, conversion of distance metrics can cause the uncertainties of the adapted ground-motion model to become magnitude and distance dependent, even if they are not in the original relation. To be able to treat this problem quantitatively, the variability increase caused by the distance metric conversion has to be quantified. For this purpose, we have used well established scaling laws to determine explicit distance conversion relations using regression analysis on simulated data. We demonstrate that, for all practical purposes, most popular distance metrics can be related to the Joyner-Boore distance using models based on gamma distributions to express the shape of some “residual function.” The functional forms are magnitude and distance dependent and are expressed as polynomials. We compare the performance of these relations with manually derived individual distance estimates for the Landers, the Imperial Valley, and the Chi-Chi earthquakes.

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