A necessary and sufficient condition for linear stability of inviscid parallel shear flow is formulated by developing a novel variational principle, where the velocity profile is assumed to be monotonic and analytic. It is shown that unstable eigenvalues of Rayleigh's equation (which is a non-self-adjoint eigenvalue problem) can be associated with positive eigenvalues of a certain self-adjoint operator. The stability is therefore determined by maximizing a quadratic form, which is theoretically and numerically more tractable than directly solving Rayleigh's equation. This variational stability criterion is based on the understanding of Kreĭn signature for continuous spectra and is applicable to other stability problems of infinite-dimensional Hamiltonian systems.
- Received April 18, 2014.
- Accepted September 4, 2014.
- © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.