The interaction of solitary waves on shallow water is examined to fourth order. At first order the interaction is governed by the Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation, and it is shown that the unidirectional assumption, of right-moving waves only, is incompatible with mass conservation at third order. To resolve this, a mass conserving system of KdV equations, involving both right- and left-moving waves, is derived to third order. A fourth-order interaction term, in which the right- and left-moving waves are coupled, is also derived as this term is crucial in determining the fourth-order change in solitary wave amplitude. The form of the unidirectional KdV equation is also discussed with nonlocal terms derived at fourth order. The solitary wave interaction is examined using the inverse scattering method for perturbed KdV equations. Central to the analysis at fourth order is the left-moving wave, for which the solution, in integral form, is derived. A symmetry property for the left-moving wave is found, which is used to show that no change in solitary wave amplitude occurs to fourth order. Hence it is concluded that, for surface waves on shallow water, the charge in solitary wave amplitude is of fifth order.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/tim_marchant/32/