Countably paracompact spaces

This post is a basic discussion on countably paracompact space. A space is a paracompact space if every open cover has a locally finite open refinement. The definition can be tweaked by saying that only open covers of size not more than a certain cardinal number \tau can have a locally finite open refinement (any space with this property is called a \tau-paracompact space). The focus here is that the open covers of interest are countable in size. Specifically, a space is a countably paracompact space if every countable open cover has a locally finite open refinement. Even though the property appears to be weaker than paracompact spaces, the notion of countably paracompactness is important in general topology. This post discusses basic properties of such spaces. All spaces under consideration are Hausdorff.

Basic discussion of paracompact spaces and their Cartesian products are discussed in these two posts (here and here).

A related notion is that of metacompactness. A space is a metacompact space if every open cover has a point-finite open refinement. For a given open cover, any locally finite refinement is a point-finite refinement. Thus paracompactness implies metacompactness. The countable version of metacompactness is also interesting. A space is countably metacompact if every countable open cover has a point-finite open refinement. In fact, for any normal space, the space is countably paracompact if and only of it is countably metacompact (see Corollary 2 below).


Normal Countably Paracompact Spaces

A good place to begin is to look at countably paracompactness along with normality. In 1951, C. H. Dowker characterized countably paracompactness in the class of normal spaces.

Theorem 1 (Dowker’s Theorem)
Let X be a normal space. The following conditions are equivalent.

  1. The space X is countably paracompact.
  2. Every countable open cover of X has a point-finite open refinement.
  3. If \left\{U_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} is an open cover of X, there exists an open refinement \left\{V_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} such that \overline{V_n} \subset U_n for each n.
  4. The product space X \times Y is normal for any compact metric space Y.
  5. The product space X \times [0,1] is normal where [0,1] is the closed unit interval with the usual Euclidean topology.
  6. For each sequence \left\{A_n \subset X: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} of closed subsets of X such that A_1 \supset A_2 \supset A_3 \supset \cdots and \cap_n A_n=\varnothing, there exist open sets B_1,B_2,B_3,\cdots such that A_n \subset B_n for each n such that \cap_n B_n=\varnothing.

Dowker’s Theorem is proved in this previous post. Condition 2 in the above formulation of the Dowker’s theorem is not in the Dowker’s theorem in the previous post. In the proof for 1 \rightarrow 2 in the previous post is essentially 1 \rightarrow 2 \rightarrow 3 for Theorem 1 above. As a result, we have the following.

Corollary 2
Let X be a normal space. Then X is countably paracompact if and only of X is countably metacompact.

Theorem 1 indicates that normal countably paracompact spaces are important for the discussion of normality in product spaces. As a result of this theorem, we know that normal countably paracompact spaces are productively normal with compact metric spaces. The Cartesian product of normal spaces with compact spaces can be non-normal (an example is found here). When the normal factor is countably paracompact and the compact factor is upgraded to a metric space, the product is always normal. The connection with normality in products is further demonstrated by the following corollary of Theorem 1.

Corollary 3
Let X be a normal space. Let Y be a non-discrete metric space. If X \times Y is normal, then X is countably paracompact.

Since Y is non-discrete, there is a non-trivial convergent sequence (i.e. the sequence represents infinitely many points). Then the sequence along with the limit point is a compact metric subspace of Y. Let’s call this subspace S. Then X \times S is a closed subspace of the normal X \times Y. As a result, X \times S is normal. By Theorem 1, X is countably paracompact.

C. H. Dowker in 1951 raised the question: is every normal space countably paracompact? Put it in another way, is the product of a normal space and the unit interval always a normal space? As a result of Theorem 1, any normal space that is not countably paracompact is called a Dowker space. The search for a Dowker space took about 20 years. In 1955, M. E. Rudin showed that a Dowker space can be constructed from assuming a Souslin line. In the mid 1960s, the existence of a Souslin line was shown to be independent of the usual axioms of set theorey (ZFC). Thus the existence of a Dowker space was known to be consistent with ZFC. In 1971, Rudin constructed a Dowker space in ZFC. Rudin’s Dowker space has large cardinality and is pathological in many ways. Zoltan Balogh constructed a small Dowker space (cardinality continuum) in 1996. Various Dowker space with nicer properties have also been constructed using extra set theory axioms. The first ZFC Dowker space constructed by Rudin is found in [2]. An in-depth discussion of Dowker spaces is found in [3]. Other references on Dowker spaces is found in [4].

Since Dowker spaces are rare and are difficult to come by, we can employ a “probabilistic” argument. For example, any “concrete” normal space (i.e. normality can be shown without using extra set theory axioms) is likely to be countably paracompact. Thus any space that is normal and not paracompact is likely countably paracompact (if the fact of being normal and not paracompact is established in ZFC). Indeed, any well known ZFC example of normal and not paracompact must be countably paracompact. In the long search for Dowker spaces, researchers must have checked all the well known examples! This probability thinking is not meant to be a proof that a given normal space is countably paracompact. It is just a way to suggest a possible answer. In fact, a good exercise is to pick a normal and non-paracompact space and show that it is countably paracompact.


Some Examples

The following lists out a few classes of spaces that are always countably paracompact.

  • Metric spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Paracompact spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Compact spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Countably compact spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Perfectly normal spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Normal Moore spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Linearly ordered spaces are countably paracompact.
  • Shrinking spaces are countably paracompact.

The first four bullet points are clear. Metric spaces are paracompact. It is clear from definition that paracompact spaces, compact and countably compact spaces are countably paracompact. One way to show perfect normal spaces are countably paracompact is to show that they satisfy condition 6 in Theorem 1 (shown here). Any Moore space is perfect (closed sets are G_\delta). Thus normal Moore space are perfectly normal and hence countably paracompact. The proof of the countably paracompactness of linearly ordered spaces can be found in [1]. See Theorem 5 and Corollary 6 below for the proof of the last bullet point.

As suggested by the probability thinking in the last section, we now look at examples of countably paracompact spaces among spaces that are “normal and not paracompact”. The first uncountable ordinal \omega_1 is normal and not paracompact. But it is countably compact and is thus countably paracompact.

Example 1
Any \Sigma-product of uncountably many metric spaces is normal and countably paracompact.

For each \alpha<\omega_1, let X_\alpha be a metric space that has at least two points. Assume that each X_\alpha has a point that is labeled 0. Consider the following subspace of the product space \prod_{\alpha<\omega_1} X_\alpha.

    \displaystyle \Sigma_{\alpha<\omega_1} X_\alpha =\left\{f \in \prod_{\alpha<\omega_1} X_\alpha: \ f(\alpha) \ne 0 \text{ for at most countably many } \alpha \right\}

The space \Sigma_{\alpha<\omega_1} X_\alpha is said to be the \Sigma-product of the spaces X_\alpha. It is well known that the \Sigma-product of metric spaces is normal, in fact collectionwise normal (this previous post has a proof that \Sigma-product of separable metric spaces is collectionwise normal). On the other hand, any \Sigma-product always contains \omega_1 as a closed subset as long as there are uncountably many factors and each factor has at least two points (see the lemma in this previous post). Thus any such \Sigma-product, including the one being discussed, cannot be paracompact.

Next we show that T=(\Sigma_{\alpha<\omega_1} X_\alpha) \times [0,1] is normal. The space T can be reformulated as a \Sigma-product of metric spaces and is thus normal. Note that T=\Sigma_{\alpha<\omega_1} Y_\alpha where Y_0=[0,1], for any n with 1 \le n<\omega, Y_n=X_{n-1} and for any \alpha with \alpha>\omega, Y_\alpha=X_\alpha. Thus T is normal since it is the \Sigma-product of metric spaces. By Theorem 1, the space \Sigma_{\alpha<\omega_1} X_\alpha is countably paracompact. \square

Example 2
Let \tau be any uncountable cardinal number. Let D_\tau be the discrete space of cardinality \tau. Let L_\tau be the one-point Lindelofication of D_\tau. This means that L_\tau=D_\tau \cup \left\{\infty \right\} where \infty is a point not in D_\tau. In the topology for L_\tau, points in D_\tau are isolated as before and open neighborhoods at \infty are of the form L_\tau - C where C is any countable subset of D_\tau. Now consider C_p(L_\tau), the space of real-valued continuous functions defined on L_\tau endowed with the pointwise convergence topology. The space C_p(L_\tau) is normal and not Lindelof, hence not paracompact (discussed here). The space C_p(L_\tau) is also homeomorphic to a \Sigma-product of \tau many copies of the real lines. By the same discussion in Example 1, C_p(L_\tau) is countably paracompact. For the purpose at hand, Example 2 is similar to Example 1. \square

Example 3
Consider R. H. Bing’s example G, which is a classic example of a normal and not collectionwise normal space. It is also countably paracompact. This previous post shows that Bing’s Example G is countably metacompact. By Corollary 2, it is countably paracompact. \square

Based on the “probabilistic” reasoning discussed at the end of the last section (based on the idea that Dowker spaces are rare), “normal countably paracompact and not paracompact” should be in plentiful supply. The above three examples are a small demonstration of this phenomenon.

Existence of Dowker spaces shows that normality by itself does not imply countably paracompactness. On the other hand, paracompact implies countably paracompact. Is there some intermediate property that always implies countably paracompactness? We point that even though collectionwise normality is intermediate between paracompactness and normality, it is not sufficiently strong to imply countably paracompactness. In fact, the Dowker space constructed by Rudin in 1971 is collectionwise normal.


More on Countably Paracompactness

Without assuming normality, the following is a characterization of countably paracompact spaces.

Theorem 4
Let X be a topological space. Then the space X is countably paracompact if and only of the following condition holds.

  • For any decreasing sequence \left\{A_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} of closed subsets of X such that \cap_n A_n=\varnothing, there exists a decreasing sequence \left\{B_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} of open subsets of X such that A_n \subset B_n for each n and \cap_n \overline{B_n}=\varnothing.

Proof of Theorem 4
Suppose that X is countably paracompact. Suppose that \left\{A_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} is a decreasing sequence of closed subsets of X as in the condition in the theorem. Then \mathcal{U}=\left\{X-A_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} is an open cover of X. Let \mathcal{V} be a locally finite open refinement of \mathcal{U}. For each n=1,2,3,\cdots, define the following:

    B_n=\cup \left\{V \in \mathcal{V}: V \cap A_n \ne \varnothing  \right\}

It is clear that A_n \subset B_n for each n. The open sets B_n are decreasing, i.e. B_1 \supset B_2 \supset \cdots since the closed sets A_n are decreasing. To show that \cap_n \overline{B_n}=\varnothing, let x \in X. The goal is to find B_j such that x \notin \overline{B_j}. Once B_j is found, we will obtain an open set V such that x \in V and V contains no points of B_j.

Since \mathcal{V} is locally finite, there exists an open set V such that x \in V and V meets only finitely many sets in \mathcal{V}. Suppose that these finitely many open sets in \mathcal{V} are V_1,V_2,\cdots,V_m. Observe that for each i=1,2,\cdots,m, there is some j(i) such that V_i \cap A_{j(i)}=\varnothing (i.e. V_i \subset X-A_{j(i)}). This follows from the fact that \mathcal{V} is a refinement \mathcal{U}. Let j be the maximum of all j(i) where i=1,2,\cdots,m. Then V_i \cap A_{j}=\varnothing for all i=1,2,\cdots,m. It follows that the open set V contains no points of B_j. Thus x \notin \overline{B_j}.

For the other direction, suppose that the space X satisfies the condition given in the theorem. Let \mathcal{U}=\left\{U_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} be an open cover of X. For each n, define A_n as follows:

    A_n=X-U_1 \cup U_2 \cup \cdots \cup U_n

Then the closed sets A_n form a decreasing sequence of closed sets with empty intersection. Let B_n be decreasing open sets such that \bigcap_{i=1}^\infty \overline{B_i}=\varnothing and A_n \subset B_n for each n. Let C_n=X-B_n for each n. Then C_n \subset \cup_{j=1}^n U_j. Define V_1=U_1. For each n \ge 2, define V_n=U_n-\bigcup_{j=1}^{n-1}C_{j}. Clearly each V_n is open and V_n \subset U_n. It is straightforward to verify that \mathcal{V}=\left\{V_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\} is a cover of X.

We claim that \mathcal{V} is locally finite in X. Let x \in X. Choose the least n such that x \notin \overline{B_n}. Choose an open set O such that x \in O and O \cap \overline{B_n}=\varnothing. Then O \cap B_n=\varnothing and O \subset C_n. This means that O \cap V_k=\varnothing for all k \ge n+1. Thus the open cover \mathcal{V} is a locally finite refinement of \mathcal{U}. \square


We present another characterization of countably paracompact spaces that involves the notion of shrinkable open covers. An open cover \mathcal{U} of a space X is said to be shrinkable if there exists an open cover \mathcal{V}=\left\{V(U): U \in \mathcal{U} \right\} of the space X such that for each U \in \mathcal{U}, \overline{V(U)} \subset U. If \mathcal{U} is shrinkable by \mathcal{V}, then we also say that \mathcal{V} is a shrinking of \mathcal{U}. Note that Theorem 1 involves a shrinking. Condition 3 in Theorem 1 (Dowker’s Theorem) can rephrased as: every countable open cover of X has a shrinking. This for any normal countably paracompact space, every countable open cover has a shrinking (or is shrinkable).

A space X is a shrinking space if every open cover of X is shrinkable. Every shrinking space is a normal space. This follows from this lemma: A space X is normal if and only if every point-finite open cover of X is shrinkable (see here for a proof). With this lemma, it follows that every shrinking space is normal. The converse is not true. To see this we first show that any shrinking space is countably paracompact. Since any Dowker space is a normal space that is not countably paracompact, any Dowker space is an example of a normal space that is not a shrinking space. To show that any shrinking space is countably paracompact, we first prove the following characterization of countably paracompactness.

Theorem 5
Let X be a space. Then X is countably paracompact if and only of every countable increasing open cover of X is shrinkable.

Proof of Theorem 5
Suppose that X is countably paracompact. Let \mathcal{U}=\left\{U_1,U_2,U_3,\cdots \right\} be an increasing open cover of X. Then there exists a locally open refinement \mathcal{V}_0 of \mathcal{U}. For each n, define V_n=\cup \left\{O \in \mathcal{V}_0: O \subset U_n \right\}. Then \mathcal{V}=\left\{V_1,V_2,V_3,\cdots \right\} is also a locally finite refinement of \mathcal{U}. For each n, define

    G_n=\cup \left\{O \subset X: O \text{ is open and } \forall \ m > n, O \cap V_m=\varnothing \right\}

Let \mathcal{G}=\left\{G_n: n=1,2,3,\cdots \right\}. It follows that G_n \subset G_m if n<m. Then \mathcal{G} is an increasing open cover of X. Observe that for each n, \overline{G_n} \cap V_m=\varnothing for all m > n. Then we have the following:

    \displaystyle \begin{aligned} \overline{G_n}&\subset X-\cup \left\{V_m: m > n \right\} \\&\subset \cup \left\{V_k: k=1,2,\cdots,n \right\} \\&\subset \cup \left\{U_k: k=1,2,\cdots,n \right\}=U_n  \end{aligned}

We have just established that \mathcal{G} is a shrinking of \mathcal{U}, or that \mathcal{U} is shrinkable.

For the other direction, to show that X is countably paracompact, we show that the condition in Theorem 4 is satisfied. Let \left\{A_1,A_2,A_3,\cdots \right\} be a decreasing sequence of closed subsets of X with empty intersection. Then \mathcal{U}=\left\{U_1,U_2,U_3,\cdots \right\} be an open cover of X where U_n=X-A_n for each n. By assumption, \mathcal{U} is shrinkable. Let \mathcal{V}=\left\{V_1,V_2,V_3,\cdots \right\} be a shrinking. We can assume that \mathcal{V} is an increasing sequence of open sets.

For each n, let B_n=X-\overline{V_n}. We claim that \left\{B_1,B_2,B_3,\cdots \right\} is a decreasing sequence of open sets that expand the closed sets A_n and that \bigcap_{n=1}^\infty \overline{B_n}=\varnothing. The expansion part follows from the following:

    A_n=X-U_n \subset X-\overline{V_n}=B_n

The part about decreasing follows from:

    B_{n+1}=X-\overline{V_{n+1}} \subset X-\overline{V_n}=B_n

We show that \bigcap_{n=1}^\infty \overline{B_n}=\varnothing. To this end, let x \in X. Then x \in V_n for some n. We claim that x \notin \overline{B_n}. Suppose x \in \overline{B_n}. Since V_n is an open set containing x, V_n must contain a point of B_n, say y. Since y \in B_n, y \notin \overline{V_n}. This in turns means that y \notin V_n, a contradiction. Thus we have x \notin \overline{B_n} as claimed. We have established that every point of X is not in \overline{B_n} for some n. Thus the intersection of all the \overline{B_n} must be empty. We have established the condition in Theorem 4 is satisfied. Thus X is countably paracompact. \square

Corollary 6
If X is a shrinking space, then X is countably paracompact.



  1. Ball, B. J., Countable Paracompactness in Linearly Ordered Spaces, Proc. Amer. Math. Soc., 5, 190-192, 1954. (link)
  2. Rudin, M. E., A Normal Space X for which X \times I is not Normal, Fund. Math., 73, 179-486, 1971. (link)
  3. Rudin, M. E., Dowker Spaces, Handbook of Set-Theoretic Topology (K. Kunen and J. E. Vaughan, eds), Elsevier Science Publishers B. V., Amsterdam, (1984) 761-780.
  4. Wikipedia Entry on Dowker Spaces (link)

\copyright \ 2016 \text{ by Dan Ma}


3 thoughts on “Countably paracompact spaces

  1. Pingback: The product of a normal countably compact space and a metric space is normal | Dan Ma's Topology Blog

  2. Pingback: The product of locally compact paracompact spaces | Dan Ma's Topology Blog

  3. Pingback: Extracting more information from Dowker’s theorem | Dan Ma's Topology Blog

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