Existence and qualitative theory for stratified solitary water waves

  • Samuel Walsh

    Department of Mathematics, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA
  • Miles H. Wheeler

    Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, New York, NY 10012, USA
  • Robin Ming Chen

    Department of Mathematics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA


This paper considers two-dimensional gravity solitary waves moving through a body of density stratified water lying below vacuum. The fluid domain is assumed to lie above an impenetrable flat ocean bed, while the interface between the water and vacuum is a free boundary where the pressure is constant. We prove that, for any smooth choice of upstream velocity field and density function, there exists a continuous curve of such solutions that includes large-amplitude surface waves. Furthermore, following this solution curve, one encounters waves that come arbitrarily close to possessing points of horizontal stagnation.

We also provide a number of results characterizing the qualitative features of solitary stratified waves. In part, these include bounds on the wave speed from above and below, some of which are new even for constant density flow; an a priori bound on the velocity field and lower bound on the pressure; a proof of the nonexistence of monotone bores in this physical regime; and a theorem ensuring that all supercritical solitary waves of elevation have an axis of even symmetry.

Cite this article

Samuel Walsh, Miles H. Wheeler, Robin Ming Chen, Existence and qualitative theory for stratified solitary water waves. Ann. Inst. H. Poincaré Anal. Non Linéaire 35 (2018), no. 2, pp. 517–576

DOI 10.1016/J.ANIHPC.2017.06.003