Dispersive and diffusive-dispersive shock waves for non-convex conservation laws

Gennady El, Mark Hoefer, Michael Shearer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


We consider two physically and mathematically distinct regularization mechanisms of scalar hyperbolic conservation laws. When the flux is convex, the combination of diffusion and dispersion is known to give rise to monotonic and oscillatory traveling waves that approximate shock waves. The zero-diffusion limits of these traveling waves are dynamically expanding dispersive shock waves (DSWs). A richer set of wave solutions can be found when the flux is nonconvex. This review compares the structure of solutions of Riemann problems for a conservation law with nonconvex, cubic flux regularized by two different mechanisms: (1) dispersion in the modified Korteweg--de Vries (mKdV) equation; and (2) a combination of diffusion and dispersion in the mKdV--Burgers equation. In the first case, the possible dynamics involve two qualitatively different types of DSWs, rarefaction waves (RWs), and kinks (monotonic fronts). In the second case, in addition to RWs, there are traveling wave solutions approximating both classical (Lax) and nonclassical (undercompressive) shock waves. Despite the singular nature of the zero-diffusion limit and rather differing analytical approaches employed in the descriptions of dispersive and diffusive-dispersive regularization, the resulting comparison of the two cases reveals a number of striking parallels. In contrast to the case of convex flux, the mKdVB to mKdV mapping of Riemann problem solutions is not one-to-one. The mKdV kink solution is identified as an undercompressive DSW. Other prominent features, such as shock-rarefactions, also find their purely dispersive counterparts involving special contact DSWs, which exhibit features analogous to contact discontinuities. This review describes an important link between two major areas of applied mathematics: hyperbolic conservation laws and nonlinear dispersive waves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-61
Number of pages59
JournalSIAM Review
Issue number1
Early online date7 Feb 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2017


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