, Volume 286, Issue 3, pp 979-1009
Date: 19 Nov 2008

Universality of the Break-up Profile for the KdV Equation in the Small Dispersion Limit Using the Riemann-Hilbert Approach


We obtain an asymptotic expansion for the solution of the Cauchy problem for the Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation $$u_t+6uu_x+\epsilon^{2}u_{xxx}=0,\quad u(x,t=0,\epsilon)=u_0(x),$$ for \({\epsilon}\) small, near the point of gradient catastrophe (x c , t c ) for the solution of the dispersionless equation u t  + 6uu x  = 0. The sub-leading term in this expansion is described by the smooth solution of a fourth order ODE, which is a higher order analogue to the Painlevé I equation. This is in accordance with a conjecture of Dubrovin, suggesting that this is a universal phenomenon for any Hamiltonian perturbation of a hyperbolic equation. Using the Deift/Zhou steepest descent method applied on the Riemann-Hilbert problem for the KdV equation, we are able to prove the asymptotic expansion rigorously in a double scaling limit.

Communicated by M. Aizenman