The causes of the seismicity of the St. Lawrence River Valley are not well understood. As is the case for the entire east coast of North America, epicentral zones often occur in regions where no correlation exists between seismicity and mapped geologic structures. Several explanations have been proposed for such a phenomenon: a) earthquakes occur along unmapped surface faults; b) earthquakes occur along subsurface faults showing no surface expression; or c) the earthquakes are not related to existing faults.
Conventional analytical techniques, such as upward and downward continuation, were applied to gravity data from the St. Lawrence River Valley in an attempt to delineate possible seismic–related structures. The analysis of the gravity data indicates that the anomalies trend in a north-northeast direction similar to the structural trends of the Precambrian rocks. The major feature of the Simple Bouguer anomaly map is an extensive positive gravity anomaly centered at Massena, New York.
Profiles across the Bouguer gravity anomalies and the up-and downward continued gravity anomalies were reproduced with a two–dimensional modeling technique. Among the various non-unique anomaly-producing structures tested we prefer a model suggesting that the positive anomaly near Massena is derived from two bodies with different density contrasts. The first is a wedge (8 km deep by 35 km wide) located 6 km below sea level with a density contrast of +0.11 gm/cm3 and the second is a smaller body (2 km deep by 6 km wide) located 3.3 km below sea level with a density contrast of +0.2 gm/cm3. The large wedge may represent a sequence of interlayered metasediments and metavolcanics related to the Grenville sequence. The smaller body may represent a mafic intrusive. Several authors have suggested that high gradients of gravity (toward positive) produced by mafic intrusives are associated with earthquakes in the eastern United States. The possible existence of a mafic intrusive near Massena, New York, and its proximity to epicentral zones suggest a similar association for earthquakes in the study area.