Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 168, Issue 3, pp 361–385 | Cite as

Turbulent Helicity in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

  • Otto G. Chkhetiani
  • Michael V. Kurgansky
  • Natalia V. Vazaeva
Research Article


We consider the assumption postulated by Deusebio and Lindborg (J Fluid Mech 755:654–671, 2014) that the helicity injected into the Ekman boundary layer undergoes a cascade, with preservation of its sign (right- or alternatively left-handedness), which is a signature of the system rotation, from large to small scales, down to the Kolmogorov microscale of turbulence. At the same time, recent direct field measurements of turbulent helicity in the steppe region of southern Russia near Tsimlyansk Reservoir show the opposite sign of helicity from that expected. A possible explanation for this phenomenon may be the joint action of different scales of atmospheric flows within the boundary layer, including the sea-breeze circulation over the test site. In this regard, we consider a superposition of the classic Ekman spiral solution and Prandtl’s jet-like slope-wind profile to describe the planetary boundary-layer wind structure. The latter solution mimics a hydrostatic shallow breeze circulation over a non-uniformly heated surface. A 180°-wide sector on the hodograph plane exists, within which the relative orientation of the Ekman and Prandtl velocity profiles favours the left rotation with height of the resulting wind velocity vector in the lowermost part of the boundary layer. This explains the negative (left-handed) helicity cascade toward small-scale turbulent motions, which agrees with the direct field measurements of turbulent helicity in Tsimlyansk. A simple turbulent relaxation model is proposed that explains the measured positive values of the relatively minor contribution to turbulent helicity from the vertical components of velocity and vorticity.


Breeze circulation Ekman boundary layer Helicity Thermal stratification 



We thank L.O. Maximenkov and V.A. Bezverkhniy for help with organizing Figs. 5 and 6, and are sincerely grateful to B.M. Koprov, V.M. Koprov and M.E. Gorbunov for helpful discussions and kind collaboration. We also thank three anonymous reviewers whose critical review and useful suggestions contributed tremendously to improvements in the content and in the style of this article. The work is supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, Project Nos. 15-05-02407-a and 17-05-01116-a.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Otto G. Chkhetiani
    • 1
  • Michael V. Kurgansky
    • 1
  • Natalia V. Vazaeva
    • 1
  1. 1.A.M. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussian Federation

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