Multiphase wavetrains, singular wave interactions and the emergence of the Korteweg–de Vries equation

Daniel J. Ratliff, Thomas J. Bridges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Multiphase wavetrains are multiperiodic travelling waves with a set of distinct wavenumbers and distinct frequencies. In conservative systems, such families are associated with the conservation of wave action or other conservation law. At generic points (where the Jacobian of the wave action flux is non-degenerate), modulation of the wavetrain leads to the dispersionless multiphase conservation of wave action. The main result of this paper is that modulation of the multiphase wavetrain, when the Jacobian of the wave action flux vector is singular, morphs the vector-valued conservation law into the scalar Korteweg–de Vries (KdV) equation. The coefficients in the emergent KdV equation have a geometrical interpretation in terms of projection of the vector components of the conservation law. The theory herein is restricted to two phases to simplify presentation, with extensions to any finite dimension discussed in the concluding remarks. Two applications of the theory are presented: a coupled nonlinear Schrödinger equation and two-layer shallow-water hydrodynamics with a free surface. Both have two-phase solutions where criticality and the properties of the emergent KdV equation can be determined analytically.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160456
Number of pages16
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2196
Early online date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiphase wavetrains, singular wave interactions and the emergence of the Korteweg–de Vries equation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this