Acta Applicandae Mathematica

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 245–276

Symmetry reductions and exact solutions of shallow water wave equations

  • Petter A. Clarkson
  • Elizabeth L. Mansfield
Part II: Invited Contributions

DOI: 10.1007/BF00994636

Cite this article as:
Clarkson, P.A. & Mansfield, E.L. Acta Appl Math (1995) 39: 245. doi:10.1007/BF00994636


In this paper we study symmetry reductions and exact solutions of the shallow water wave (SWW) equation
$$u_{xxxt} + \alpha u_x u_{xt} + \beta u_t u_{xx} - u_{xt} - u_{xx} = 0,$$
whereα andβ are arbitrary, nonzero, constants, which is derivable using the so-called Boussinesq approximation. Two special cases of this equation, or the equivalent nonlocal equation obtained by settingux=U, have been discussed in the literature. The caseα=2β was discussed by Ablowitz, Kaup, Newell and Segur (Stud. Appl. Math.,53 (1974), 249), who showed that this case was solvable by inverse scattering through a second-order linear problem. This case and the caseα=β were studied by Hirota and Satsuma (J. Phys. Soc. Japan,40 (1976), 611) using Hirota's bi-linear technique. Further, the caseα=β is solvable by inverse scattering through a third-order linear problem.

In this paper, a catalogue of symmetry reductions is obtained using the classical Lie method and the nonclassical method due to Bluman and Cole (J. Math. Mech,18 (1969), 1025). The classical Lie method yields symmetry reductions of (1) expressible in terms of the first, third and fifth Painlevé transcendents and Weierstrass elliptic functions. The nonclassical method yields a plethora of exact solutions of (1) withα=β which possess a rich variety of qualitative behaviours. These solutions all like a two-soliton solution fort < 0 but differ radically fort > 0 and may be viewed as a nonlinear superposition of two solitons, one travelling to the left with arbitrary speed and the other to the right with equal and opposite speed. These families of solutions have important implications with regard to the numerical analysis of SWW and suggests that solving (1) numerically could pose some fundamental difficulties. In particular, one would not be able to distinguish the solutions in an initial-value problem since an exponentially small change in the initial conditions can result in completely different qualitative behaviours.

We compare the two-soliton solutions obtained using the nonclassical method to those obtained using the singular manifold method and Hirota's bi-linear method.

Further, we show that there is an analogous nonlinear superposition of solutions for two (2+1)dimensional generalisations of the SWW Equation (1) withα=β. This yields solutions expressible as the sum of two solutions of the Korteweg-de Vries equation.

Mathematics subject classification (1991)


Key words

symmetry reductionsexact solutionsshallow water wave equation

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petter A. Clarkson
    • 1
  • Elizabeth L. Mansfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsUniversity of ExeterExeterUK