||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Linear system of divisors. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2013.|
Geometrically, this corresponds to the common intersection of the varieties.
More precisely, suppose that is a linear system of divisors on some variety . Consider the intersection
where denotes the support of a divisor, and the intersection is taken over all effective divisors in the linear system. This is the base locus of (as a set, at least: there may be more subtle scheme-theoretic considerations as to what the structure sheaf of should be).
One application of the notion of base locus is to nefness of a Cartier divisor class (i.e. complete linear system). Suppose is such a class on a variety , and an irreducible curve on . If is not contained in the base locus of , then there exists some divisor in the class which does not contain , and so intersects it properly. Basic facts from intersection theory then tell us that we must have . The conclusion is that to check nefness of a divisor class, it suffices to compute the intersection number with curves contained in the base locus of the class. So, roughly speaking, the 'smaller' the base locus, the 'more likely' it is that the class is nef.
In the modern formulation of algebraic geometry, a linear system of (Cartier) divisors on a variety is viewed as a line bundle on . From this viewpoint, the base locus is the set of common zeroes of all sections of . A simple consequence is that the bundle is globally generated if and only if the base locus is empty.