A given spatial scheme of solving the PDE is said to be convergent if any numerical approximation , obtained through this scheme, to the solution

Two more concepts are helpful in the convergence analysis of numerical schemes:- consistency: an approximation to the PDE (116) is consistent if both
- stability: with the formal notations of Equation (117), an approximation to the PDE (116) is stable if where is independent of and bounded for .

The direct proof of convergence of a given scheme is usually very difficult to obtain. Therefore, a natural approach is to use the Lax–Richtmyer equivalence theorem: “a consistent approximation to a well-posed linear problem is stable if and only if it is convergent”. Thus, the study of convergence of discrete approximations can be reduced to the study of their stability, assuming they are consistent. Hereafter, we sketch out the proof of this equivalence theorem.

The time-evolution PDE (116) is approximated by

To show that stability implies convergence, we subtract it from the exact solution (116)Conversely, to show that convergence implies stability, we use the triangle inequality to get

The simplest stability criterion is the von Neumann stability condition: if we define the adjoint of the operator , using the inner product, with weight of the Hilbert space

The most straightforward technique for establishing the stability of spectral schemes is the energy method: it is based on choosing the approximate solution itself as a test function in the evaluation of residual (60). However, this technique only provides a sufficient condition and, in particular, crude energy estimates indicating that a spectral scheme might be unstable can be very misleading for non-normal evolution operators (see the example in Section 8 of Gottlieb and Orszag [94]).

Some sufficient conditions on the spatial operator and its approximation are used in the literature to obtain energy estimates and stability criteria, including:

- If the operator is semibounded: where is the identity operator.
- In the parabolic case, if satisfies the coercivity condition (see also Chapter 6.5 of
Canuto et al. [57]
^{1}): and the continuity condition: - In the hyperbolic case, if there exists a constant such that and if the operator verifies the negativity condition:

As an illustration, we now consider a Galerkin method applied to the solution of Equation (116), in which the operator is semibounded, following the definition (148). The discrete solution is such that the residual (60) estimated on the approximate solution itself verifies

Separating the time derivative and the spatial operator:

We first study the linear heat equation with homogeneous Dirichlet boundary conditions and initial condition In the semidiscrete approach, the Chebyshev collocation method for this problem (see Section 2.5.3) can de devised as follows: the spectral solution is a polynomial of degree on the interval , vanishing at the endpoints. On the other Chebyshev–Gauss–Lobatto collocation points (see Section 2.4.3), is defined through the collocation equations which are time ODEs (discussed in Section 4.1) with the initial conditions

We will now discuss the stability of such a scheme, with the computation of the energy bound to the solution. Multiplying the -th equation of the system (159) by , where are the discrete weights of the Chebyshev–Gauss–Lobatto quadrature (Section 2.4.3), and summing over , one gets:

Boundary points () have been included in the sum since is zero there due to boundary conditions. The product is a polynomial of degree , so the quadrature formula is exact and integrating by parts twice, one gets the relation By the properties of the Chebyshev weight it is possible to show that and thus that Therefore, integrating relation (161) over the time interval , one obtains The left-hand side represents the discrete norm of , but since this is a polynomial of degree , one cannot apply the Gauss–Lobatto rule. Nevertheless, it has been shown (see, e.g., Section 5.3 of Canuto et al. [57]) that discrete and -norms are uniformly equivalent, therefore: which proves the stability of the Chebyshev collocation method for the heat equation. Convergence can again be deduced from the Lax–Richtmyer theorem, but a detailed analysis cf. Section 6.5.1 of Canuto et al. [57]) shows that the numerical solution obtained by the method described here converges to the true solution and one can obtain the convergence rate. If the solution is -times differentiable with respect to the spatial coordinate (see Section 2.4.4) the energy norm of the error decays as . In particular, if the solution is , the error decays faster than any power of .

We now study the Legendre-tau approximation to the simple advection equation with homogeneous Dirichlet boundary condition and initial condition If we seek the solution as the truncated Legendre series:

Living Rev. Relativity 12, (2009), 1
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