In this article, an Lp-approach to the primitive equations is developed. In particular, it is shown that the three dimensional primitive equations admit a unique, global strong solution for all initial data a∈[Xp,D(Ap)]1/p provided p∈ [ 6 / 5 , ∞). To this end, the hydrostatic Stokes operator Ap defined on Xp, the subspace of Lp associated with the hydrostatic Helmholtz projection, is introduced and investigated. Choosing p large, one obtains global well-posedness of the primitive equations for strong solutions for initial data a having less differentiability properties than H1, hereby generalizing in particular a result by Cao and Titi (Ann Math 166:245–267, 2007) to the case of non-smooth initial data.
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