Serre spectral sequence



Algebraic topology

Homological algebra

homological algebra

(also nonabelian homological algebra)



Basic definitions

Stable homotopy theory notions



diagram chasing

Homology theories




In ordinary cohomology

The Serre spectral sequence or Leray-Serre spectral sequence is a spectral sequence for computation of ordinary cohomology (ordinary homology) of topological spaces in a Serre-fiber sequence of topological spaces.


(ordinary cohomology Serre spectral sequence)

Given a homotopy fiber sequence

F E p X \array{ F &\longrightarrow& E \\ && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{p}} \\ && X }

over a connected topological space XX, such that the canonical group action of the fundamental group π 1(X)\pi_1(X) on the ordinary cohomology of the fiber FF is trivial (for instance if XX is a simply connected topological space), then there exists a cohomology Serre spectral sequence of the form:

(1)E 2 p,q=H p(X,H q(F))H p+q(E). E_2^{p,q} \;=\; H^p \big( X, \, H^q(F) \big) \;\Rightarrow\; H^{p+q}(E) \,.

(e.g. Hatcher, Thm. 1.14)

Hence for nn \in \mathbb{N} we have a filtration of abelian groups

(2)0E n,0F n nE n1,1F n1 nF 1 nE 0,nF 0 n=H n(E), 0 \xhookrightarrow{ \;\; E^{n,0}_\infty \;\; } F^n_n \xhookrightarrow{ E^{n-1,1}_\infty } F^n_{n-1} \xhookrightarrow{\;\;\;\;\;} \cdots \xhookrightarrow{\;\;\;\;\;} F^n_{1} \xhookrightarrow{ \;\; E^{0,n}_\infty \;\; } F^n_0 \;=\; H^n(E) \,,


F p+1 nE p,npF p nAAAAmeans thatAAAA0F p+1 nF p nE p,np0, F^n_{p+1} \xhookrightarrow{ E^{p,n-p}_\infty } F^n_{p} {\phantom{AAAA}} \text{means that} {\phantom{AAAA}} 0 \to F^n_{p+1} \xhookrightarrow{\;} F^n_{p} \twoheadrightarrow E^{p,n-p}_\infty \to 0 \,,

hence that – iteratively as pp decreasesF p nF^n_p is an extension of E p,npE^{p,n-p}_\infty by F p+1 nF^n_{p+1}.

In generalized cohomology

The generalization of this from ordinary cohomology to generalized (Eilenberg-Steenrod) cohomology is the Atiyah-Hirzebruch spectral sequence, see there for details.

In relative cohomology

There are two kinds of relative Serre spectral sequences.

For FEXF \to E \to X as above and AXA \hookrightarrow X a subspace, the induced restriction of the fibration

F F p 1(A) E p A X \array{ F & \simeq & F \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ p^{-1}(A) &\longrightarrow& E \\ \downarrow && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{p}} \\ A &\hookrightarrow& X }

induces a spectral sequence in relative cohomology of the base space of the form

E 2 p,q=H p(X,A;H q(F))H (E,p 1(A)). E_2^{p,q} = H^p(X,A; H^q(F)) \;\Rightarrow\; H^\bullet(E, p^{-1}(A)) \,.

(e.g. Davis 91, theorem 9.33)

Conversely, for

F F E E p X X \array{ F' & \hookrightarrow & F \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ E' &\hookrightarrow& E \\ \downarrow && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{p}} \\ X &\hookrightarrow& X }

a sub-fibration over the same base, then this induces a spectral sequence for relative cohomology of the the total space in terms of ordinary cohomology with coefficients in the relative cohomology of the fibers:

E 2 p,q=H p(X;H q(F,F))H (E,E). E^{p,q}_2 = H^p(X; H^q(F,F')) \;\Rightarrow\; H^\bullet(E,E') \,.

(e.g. Kochman 96, theorem 2.6.3, Davis 91, theorem 9.34)

In equivariant cohomology

There is also a generalization to equivariant cohomology: for cohomology with coefficients in a Mackey functor withRO(G)-grading for representation spheres S VS^V, then for EXE \to X an FF-fibration of topological G-spaces and for AA any GG-Mackey functor, the equivariant Serre spectral sequence looks like (Kronholm 10, theorem 3.1):

E 2 p,q=H p(X,H V+q(F,A))H V+p+q(E,A), E_2^{p,q} = H^p(X, H^{V+q}(F,A)) \,\Rightarrow\, H^{V+p+q}(E,A) \,,

where on the left in the E 2E_2-page we have ordinary cohomology with coefficients in the genuine equivariant cohomology groups of the fiber.


For details on the plain Serre spectral sequence see at Atiyah-Hirzebruch spectral sequence and take E=HRE = H R to be ordinary cohomology.



(integral cohomology of homotopy quotient of 4-sphere by finite subgroup of SU(2))


Then the integral cohomology in degree 4 of the homotopy quotient is the direct sum

(3)H 4(S G,)(/|G|) H^4 \big( S^{\mathbb{H}} \!\sslash\! G, \, \mathbb{Z} \big) \;\; \simeq \;\; \mathbb{Z} \oplus (\mathbb{Z}/\left\vert G \right\vert)

of the integers with the cyclic group of order that of GG.


By the Borel construction we have a homotopy fiber sequence of the form

(4)S 4 S G BG \array{ S^4 &\longrightarrow& S^{\mathbb{H}} \!\sslash\! G \\ && \big\downarrow \\ && B G }

over the classifying space of GG.

Here the integral cohomology of the 4-sphere fiber is (e.g. by the nature of the Eilenberg-MacLane space K(,4)K(\mathbb{Z},4))

(5)H n(S 4,){ for n{0,4} 0 otherwise. H^n \big( S^4, \, \mathbb{Z} \big) \;\simeq\; \left\{ \array{ \mathbb{Z} & for & n \in \{0,4\} \\ 0 & \text{otherwise} \,. } \right.

We claim that the group action of π 1(BG)G\pi_1(B G) \simeq G (by this Prop.) on the integral cohomology of the fiber is trivial. This follows by observing that:

  1. we have an isomorphism of topological G-spaces between the representation sphere of \mathbb{H} and the unit sphere in \mathbb{R} \oplus \mathbb{H} (by this Prop.):

    S GS(); S^{\mathbb{H}} \;\simeq_{G}\; S(\mathbb{R} \oplus \mathbb{H}) \,;
  2. the group action of Sp(1) on 4\mathbb{H} \simeq_{\mathbb{R}} \mathbb{R}^4 is through the defining action of SO(4), hence the action on \mathbb{R} \oplus \mathbb{H} is through SO(5),

    because quaternions are a normed division algebra, so that left-multiplication by unit-norm quaternions qq \in Sp(1) =S()= S(\mathbb{H}) preserves the norm (e.g HSS 18, Rem. A.8);

  3. the generator of H 4(S 4,)H^4(S^4,\mathbb{Z}) may be identified with the volume form (under the Hopf degree theorem and the de Rham theorem) which is manifestly preserved by the action of the special orthogonal group SO(5)SO(5).

Therefore, the integral-cohomological Serre spectral sequence (Prop. ) applies to the Borel fiber sequence (4).

Now, noticing that the integral cohomology of a classifying space of a discrete group is its group cohomology

H (BG,)H grp (G,) H^\bullet(B G, \mathbb{Z}) \;\simeq\; H^\bullet_{grp}(G, \mathbb{Z})

we have for the given finite subgroup of SU(2) (by this Prop) that:

(6)H n(BG,){ | n=0 G ab | n=2mod4 /|G| | npositive multiple of4 0 | otherwise, H^n(B G, \mathbb{Z}) \;\simeq\; \left\{ \array{ \mathbb{Z} &\vert& n = 0 \\ G^{ab} &\vert& n = 2 \, mod \, 4 \\ \mathbb{Z}/{\vert G \vert} &\vert& n \, \text{positive multiple of} \, 4 \\ 0 &\vert& \text{otherwise} \,, } \right.

where G abG/[G,G]G^{ab} \coloneqq G / [G,G] denotes the abelianization of GG.

Using the cohomology groups (5) and (6) in the fomula (1) for the second page E 2 ,E_2^{\bullet, \bullet} of the cohomology Serre spectral sequence (Prop. ) shows that this is of the following form:

Since the codomains of the differentials on all the following pages are translated diagonally (downwards and rightwards, by the general formula) from the codomains seen above, one sees that for every differential on every page, the domain or the codomain is the zero group.

This means that all differentials are the zero morphism, hence that the spectral sequence collapses already on this second page:

E ,E 2 ,. E^{\bullet, \bullet}_\infty \;\; \simeq \;\; E^{\bullet, \bullet}_2 \,.

Therefore the convergence statement (2) says that the degree-4 cohomology group in question is a group extension of

E 0,4H 0(BG,H 4(S 4;))H 0(BG,) E^{0,4}_\infty \;\simeq\; H^0\big(B G, \, H^4(S^4; \mathbb{Z}) \big) \;\simeq\; H^0\big( B G, \, \mathbb{Z}\big) \;\simeq\; \mathbb{Z}


E 4,0H 4(BG,H 0(S 4;))H 4(BG,)/|G| E^{4,0}_\infty \;\simeq\; H^4\big(B G, \, H^0(S^4; \mathbb{Z}) \big) \;\simeq\; H^4\big( B G, \, \mathbb{Z}\big) \;\simeq\; \mathbb{Z}/\left\vert G \right\vert

in that we have a short exact sequence of the form

0/|G|H 4(S 4G;)0. 0 \to \mathbb{Z}/\left\vert G\right\vert \hookrightarrow H^4\big( S^4 \!\sslash\! G;\, \mathbb{Z} \big) \twoheadrightarrow \mathbb{Z} \to 0 \,.

But since the Ext-group of the integers is trivial (this Expl.) this extension must be the direct sum

H 4(S 4G;) |G|. H^4\big( S^4 \!\sslash\! G;\, \mathbb{Z} \big) \;\simeq\; \mathbb{Z}_{\left\vert G\right\vert} \oplus \mathbb{Z} \,.

This is the claim (3) to be proven.




The original article is

  • Jean-Pierre Serre, Homologie singuliére des espaces fibrés Applications, Ann. of Math. 54 (1951),

Textbook accounts:

Lecture notes etc. includes

  • Greg Friedman, Some extremely brief notes on the Leray spectral sequence (pdf)

Discussion in homotopy type theory includes

and implementation in Lean is in

In equivariant cohomology

In equivariant cohomology, for Bredon cohomology:

  • Ieke Moerdijk, J.-A. Svensson, The Equivariant Serre Spectral Sequence, Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society Vol. 118, No. 1 (May, 1993), pp. 263-278 (JSTOR)

and for genuine equivariant cohomology, i.e. for RO(G)-graded cohomology with coefficients in a Mackey functor:

  • William Kronholm, The RO(G)RO(G)-graded Serre spectral sequence, Homology Homotopy Appl. Volume 12, Number 1 (2010), 75-92. (pdf, Euclid)

See also

Last revised on July 6, 2021 at 06:14:31. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.