Unstable Stokes Waves

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We investigate the spectral instability of a 2 π/ κ periodic Stokes wave of sufficiently small amplitude, traveling in water of unit depth, under gravity. Numerical evidence suggests instability whenever the unperturbed wave is resonant with its infinitesimal perturbations. This has not been analytically studied except for the Benjamin–Feir instability in the vicinity of the origin of the complex plane. Here we develop a periodic Evans function approach to give an alternative proof of the Benjamin–Feir instability and, also, a first proof of spectral instability away from the origin. Specifically, we prove instability near the origin for κ> κ1: = 1.3627827 ⋯ , and instability due to resonance of order two so long as an index function is positive. Validated numerics establishes that the index function is indeed positive for some κ< κ1 , whereby there exists a Stokes wave that is spectrally unstable even though it is insusceptible to the Benjamin–Feir instability. The proofs involve center manifold reduction, Floquet theory, and methods of ordinary and partial differential equations. Numerical evaluation reveals that the index function remains positive unless κ= 1.8494040 ⋯ . Therefore we conjecture that all Stokes waves of sufficiently small amplitude are spectrally unstable. For the proof of the conjecture, one has to verify that the index function is positive for κ sufficiently small.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number62
JournalArchive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analysis
  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • Mechanical Engineering


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