Slow-burning instabilities of Dufort-Frankel finite differencing
Keywords:finite differences, numerical instability, DuFort–Frankel, leapfrog schemes, diffusion
DuFort–Frankel averaging is a tactic to stabilize Richardson’s unstable three-level leapfrog timestepping scheme. By including the next time level in the right-hand-side evaluation, it is implicit, but it can be rearranged to give an explicit updating formula, thus apparently giving the best of both worlds. Textbooks prove unconditional stability for the heat equation, and extensive use on a variety of advection–diffusion equations has produced many useful results. Nonetheless, for some problems the scheme can fail in an interesting and surprising way, leading to instability at very long times. An analysis for a simple problem involving a pair of evolution equations that describe the spread of a rabies epidemic gives insight into how this occurs. An even simpler modified diffusion equation suffers from the same instability. Finally, the rabies problem is revisited and a stable method is found for a restricted range of parameter values, although no prescriptive recipe is known which selects this particular choice.