We now begin the rigorous theory of the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations

where is a given constant (the *kinematic viscosity*, or *viscosity* for short), is an unknown vector field (the *velocity field*), and is an unknown scalar field (the *pressure field*). Here is a time interval, usually of the form or . We will either be interested in spatially decaying situations, in which decays to zero as , or -periodic (or *periodic* for short) settings, in which one has for all . (One can also require the pressure to be periodic as well; this brings up a small subtlety in the uniqueness theory for these equations, which we will address later in this set of notes.) As is usual, we abuse notation by identifying a -periodic function on with a function on the torus .

In order for the system (1) to even make sense, one requires some level of regularity on the unknown fields ; this turns out to be a relatively important technical issue that will require some attention later in this set of notes, and we will end up transforming (1) into other forms that are more suitable for lower regularity candidate solution. Our focus here will be on local existence of these solutions in a short time interval or , for some . (One could in principle also consider solutions that extend to negative times, but it turns out that the equations are not time-reversible, and the forward evolution is significantly more natural to study than the backwards one.) The study of Euler equations, in which , will be deferred to subsequent lecture notes.

As the unknown fields involve a time parameter , and the first equation of (1) involves time derivatives of , the system (1) should be viewed as describing an evolution for the velocity field . (As we shall see later, the pressure is not really an independent dynamical field, as it can essentially be expressed in terms of the velocity field without requiring any differentiation or integration in time.) As such, the natural question to study for this system is the initial value problem, in which an initial velocity field is specified, and one wishes to locate a solution to the system (1) with initial condition

for . Of course, in order for this initial condition to be compatible with the second equation in (1), we need the compatibility condition

and one should also impose some regularity, decay, and/or periodicity hypotheses on in order to be compatible with corresponding level of regularity etc. on the solution .

The fundamental questions in the local theory of an evolution equation are that of *existence*, *uniqueness*, and *continuous dependence*. In the context of the Navier-Stokes equations, these questions can be phrased (somewhat broadly) as follows:

- (a) (Local existence) Given suitable initial data , does there exist a solution to the above initial value problem that exists for some time ? What can one say about the time of existence? How regular is the solution?
- (b) (Uniqueness) Is it possible to have two solutions of a certain regularity class to the same initial value problem on a common time interval ? To what extent does the answer to this question depend on the regularity assumed on one or both of the solutions? Does one need to normalise the solutions beforehand in order to obtain uniqueness?
- (c) (Continuous dependence on data) If one perturbs the initial conditions by a small amount, what happens to the solution and on the time of existence ? (This question tends to only be sensible once one has a reasonable uniqueness theory.)

The answers to these questions tend to be more complicated than a simple “Yes” or “No”, for instance they can depend on the precise regularity hypotheses one wishes to impose on the data and on the solution, and even on exactly how one interprets the concept of a “solution”. However, once one settles on such a set of hypotheses, it generally happens that one either gets a “strong” theory (in which one has existence, uniqueness, and continuous dependence on the data), a “weak” theory (in which one has existence of somewhat low-quality solutions, but with only limited uniqueness results (or even some spectacular failures of uniqueness) and almost no continuous dependence on data), or no satsfactory theory whatsoever. In the former case, we say (roughly speaking) that the initial value problem is *locally well-posed*, and one can then try to build upon the theory to explore more interesting topics such as global existence and asymptotics, classifying potential blowup, rigorous justification of conservation laws, and so forth. With a weak local theory, it becomes much more difficult to address these latter sorts of questions, and there are serious analytic pitfalls that one could fall into if one tries too strenuously to treat weak solutions as if they were strong. (For instance, conservation laws that are rigorously justified for strong, high-regularity solutions may well fail for weak, low-regularity ones.) Also, even if one is primarily interested in solutions at one level of regularity, the well-posedness theory at another level of regularity can be very helpful; for instance, if one is interested in smooth solutions in , it turns out that the well-posedness theory at the critical regularity of can be used to establish *globally* smooth solutions from small initial data. As such, it can become quite important to know what kind of local theory one can obtain for a given equation.

This set of notes will focus on the “strong” theory, in which a substantial amount of regularity is assumed in the initial data and solution, giving a satisfactory (albeit largely local-in-time) well-posedness theory. “Weak” solutions will be considered in later notes.

The Navier-Stokes equations are not the simplest of partial differential equations to study, in part because they are an amalgam of three more basic equations, which behave rather differently from each other (for instance the first equation is nonlinear, while the latter two are linear):

- (a)
*Transport equations*such as . - (b)
*Diffusion equations*(or*heat equations*) such as . - (c) Systems such as , , which (for want of a better name) we will call
*Leray systems*.

Accordingly, we will devote some time to getting some preliminary understanding of the linear diffusion and Leray systems before returning to the theory for the Navier-Stokes equation. Transport systems will be discussed further in subsequent notes; in this set of notes, we will instead focus on a more basic example of nonlinear equations, namely the first-order *ordinary differential equation*

where takes values in some finite-dimensional (real or complex) vector space on some time interval , and is a given linear or nonlinear function. (Here, we use “interval” to denote a connected non-empty subset of ; in particular, we allow intervals to be half-infinite or infinite, or to be open, closed, or half-open.) Fundamental results in this area include the Picard existence and uniqueness theorem, the Duhamel formula, and Grönwall’s inequality; they will serve as motivation for the approach to local well-posedness that we will adopt in this set of notes. (There are other ways to construct strong or weak solutions for Navier-Stokes and Euler equations, which we will discuss in later notes.)

A key role in our treatment here will be played by the fundamental theorem of calculus (in various forms and variations). Roughly speaking, this theorem, and its variants, allow us to recast differential equations (such as (1) or (4)) as integral equations. Such integral equations are less tractable algebraically than their differential counterparts (for instance, they are not ideal for verifying conservation laws), but are significantly more convenient for well-posedness theory, basically because integration tends to increase the regularity of a function, while differentiation reduces it. (Indeed, the problem of “losing derivatives”, or more precisely “losing regularity”, is a key obstacle that one often has to address when trying to establish well-posedness for PDE, particularly those that are quite nonlinear and with rough initial data, though for nonlinear parabolic equations such as Navier-Stokes the obstacle is not as serious as it is for some other PDE, due to the smoothing effects of the heat equation.)

One weakness of the methods deployed here are that the quantitative bounds produced deteriorate to the point of uselessness in the inviscid limit , rendering these techniques unsuitable for analysing the Euler equations in which . However, some of the methods developed in later notes have bounds that remain uniform in the limit, allowing one to also treat the Euler equations.

In this and subsequent set of notes, we use the following asymptotic notation (a variant of Vinogradov notation that is commonly used in PDE and harmonic analysis). The statement , , or will be used to denote an estimate of the form (or equivalently ) for some constant , and will be used to denote the estimates . If the constant depends on other parameters (such as the dimension ), this will be indicated by subscripts, thus for instance denotes the estimate for some depending on .

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