In the vicinity of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, the boundary between the Southern and Superior tectonic provinces is overlain by the elliptical Sudbury Structure. On the basis of gravity modeling, genesis of the Sudbury Structure has been attributed to either a magmatic origin (having a dense hidden differentiate zone) or a meteorite impact origin (there being no dense hidden mass). The difference between the two gravity models centers on the problem of regional-residual separation. As shown by numerous previous studies, any such separation of components is nonunique. This becomes especially problematic when, as in Sudbury, a portion of the near-surface geology has a similar orientation and dimension to more deep-seated sources.

In this paper, several numerical methods (upward continuation, downward continuation, wavelength filtering, trend-surface analysis) for determining the regional component of the gravity field associated with the Sudbury Structure have been applied and evaluated. Of the numerical methods used, the upward and downward continuation operators provided the most insight into the deep structural controls of the Sudbury Basin.

Our preferred interpretation of the regional gravity field invokes a two-component structure. Underlying the southern half of the Sudbury Structure is a laterally continuous gravity anomaly that is probably associated with a zone of uplifted Huronian volcanics. The gravity anomaly under the northern portion of the Sudbury Structure has a more restricted spatial extent. The close association between the northern limit of the gravity anomaly and the surface outcrop of the Levack Gneiss suggests the source of this anomaly is probably a slab of dense Levack Gneiss. This interpretation favors a meteorite impact origin for the Sudbury Structure.

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