The Multiple-Scale Wave Equation

Document Type



Mathematics (HMC), Mathematics (Pomona)

Publication Date



Linear wave equation, Multiple scale behavior


An analytic and numerical study of the behavior of the linear nonhomogeneous wave equation of the form ϵ2utt = Δu + tf with high wave speed (ϵ ⪡ 1) is carried out. This study was initially motivated by meteorological observations which have indicated the presence of large spatial scale gravity waves in the neighborhood of a number of summer and winter storms, mainly from visible images of ripples in clouds in satellite photos. There is a question as to whether the presence of these waves is caused by the nearby storms. Since the linear wave equation is an approximation to the full system describing pressure waves in the atmosphere, yet is considerably more tractable, we have chosen to analyze the behavior of the linear nonhomogeneous wave equation with high wave speed. The analysis is shown to be valid in one, two, and three space dimensions. Partly because of the high wave speed, the solution is known to consist of behavior which changes on two different time scales, one rapid and one slow. Additionally, because of the presence of the nonhomogeneous forcing term tf, we show that there is a component of the solution which will vary only on a very large spatial scale. Since even the linearized wave equation can give rise to persistent large spatial scale waves under the right conditions, the implication is that certain storms could be responsible for the generation of large-scale waves. Numerical simulations in one and two dimensions confirm analytic results.

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© 1998 Elsevier B.V.

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