Hamiltonian structure, symmetries and conservation laws for water waves

T. Brooke Benjamin, P. J. Olver

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168 Scopus citations


An investigation on novel lines is made into the problem of water waves according to the perfect-fluid model, with reference to wave motions in both two and three space dimensions and with allowance for surface tension. Attention to the Hamiltonian structure of the complete nonlinear problem and the use of methods based on infinitesimal-transformation theory provide a Systematic account of symmetries inherent to the problem and of corresponding conservation laws. The introduction includes an outline of relevant elements from Hamiltonian theory (§ 1.1) and a brief discussion of implications that the present findings may carry for the approximate mathematical modelling of water waves (§1.2). Details of the hydrodynamic problem are recalled in §2. Then in §3 questions about the regularity of solutions are put in perspective, and a general interpretation is expounded regarding the phenomenon of wave-breaking as the termination of smooth Hamil- tonian evolution. In §4 complete symmetry groups are given for several versions of the water-wave problem : easily understood forms of the main results are listed first in §4.1, and the systematic derivations of them are explained in §4.2. Conservation laws implied by the one-parameter subgroups of the full symmetry groups are worked out in §5, where a recent extension of Noether's theorem is applied relying on the Hamiltonian structure of the problem. The physical meanings of the conservation laws revealed in §5, to an extent abstractly there, are examined fully in §6 and various new insights into the water-wave problem are presented. In Appendix 1 the parameterized version of the problem is considered, covering cases where the elevation of the free surface is not a single-valued function of horizontal position. I n Appendix 2 a general method for finding the symmetry groups of free-boundary problems is explained, and the exposition includes the mathematical material underlying the particular applications in §§4 and 5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-185
Number of pages49
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1982


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