Fully nonlinear internal waves in a two-fluid system

Wooyoung Choi, Roberto Camassa

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411 Scopus citations


Model equations that govern the evolution of internal gravity waves at the interface of two immiscible inviscid fluids are derived. These models follow from the original Euler equations under the sole assumption that the waves are long compared to the undisturbed thickness of one of the fluid layers. No smallness assumption on the wave amplitude is made. Both shallow and deep water configurations are considered, depending on whether the waves are assumed to be long with respect to the total undisturbed thickness of the fluids or long with respect to just one of the two layers, respectively. The removal of the traditional weak nonlinearity assumption is aimed at improving the agreement with the dynamics of Euler equations for large-amplitude waves. This is obtained without compromising much of the simplicity of the previously known weakly nonlinear models. Compared to these, the fully nonlinear models' most prominent feature is the presence of additional nonlinear dispersive terms, which coexist with the typical linear dispersive terms of the weakly nonlinear models. The fully nonlinear models contain the Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation and the Intermediate Long Wave (ILW) equation, for shallow and deep water configurations respectively, as special cases in the limit of weak nonlinearity and unidirectional wave propagation. In particular, for a solitary wave of given amplitude, the new models show that the characteristic wavelength is larger and the wave speed is smaller than their counterparts for solitary wave solutions of the weakly nonlinear equations. These features are compared and found in overall good agreement with available experimental data for solitary waves of large amplitude in two-fluid systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Oct 10 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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