Battling Gibbs phenomenon : On finite element approximations of discontinuous solutions of PDEs

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-47
Journal / PublicationComputers and Mathematics with Applications
Online published2 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2022


In this paper, we want to clarify the Gibbs phenomenon when continuous and discontinuous finite elements are used to approximate discontinuous or nearly discontinuous PDE solutions from the approximation point of view. For a simple step function, we explicitly compute its continuous and discontinuous piecewise constant or linear projections on discontinuity matched or non-matched meshes. For the simple discontinuity-aligned mesh case, piecewise discontinuous approximations are always good. For the general non-matched case, we explain that the piecewise discontinuous constant approximation combined with adaptive mesh refinements is a good choice to achieve accuracy without overshoots. For discontinuous piecewise linear approximations, non-trivial overshoots will be observed unless the mesh is matched with discontinuity. For continuous piecewise linear approximations, the computation is based on a “far-away assumption”, and non-trivial overshoots will always be observed under regular meshes. We calculate the explicit overshoot values for several typical cases. Numerical tests are conducted for a singularly-perturbed reaction-diffusion equation and linear hyperbolic equations to verify our findings in the paper. Also, we discuss the L1-minimization-based methods and do not recommend such methods due to their similar behavior to L2-based methods and more complicated implementations.

Research Area(s)

  • Adaptive finite element methods, Discontinuous solution of PDEs, Gibbs phenomenon, Overshoot, Singularly perturbed equation