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Why does rain smell so good ?

Posted on Thursday, 4 April, 2013 | Comment icon 16 comments | News tip by: Still Waters


Image credit: sxc.hu

 
What creates the evocative smell of fresh rain when you venture outside following a heavy downpour ?

Finding the origins of rain's aroma was the primary focus of two Australian scientists who in 1964 begun a concerted effort to investigate the phenomenon. In an article entitled "Nature of Agrillaceous Odor", Isabel Joy Bear and R. G. Thomas coined the term "petrichor" to help describe the smell of fresh rain.

It turned out that one of the main sources of the aroma is the blend of oils some plants secrete during dry periods. When the rain arrives, compounds from the oils are mixed and released in to the air along with geosmin, a chemical produced by bacteria in the soil. "It's a very pleasant aroma, sort of a musky smell," said soil specialist Bill Ypsilantis. "You’ll also smell that when you are in your garden and you’re turning over your soil."

"Step outside after the first storm after a dry spell and it invariably hits you: the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain."

  View: Full article

 Source: Smithsonian Magazine


  Discuss: View comments (16)

   


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by Rocketgirl on 3 April, 2013, 23:49
Petrichor. That was it...thank you!!!
Comment icon #8 Posted by Still Waters on 4 April, 2013, 12:13
I love the smell too. I just wish we didn't get so much rain while other countries don't get enough.
Comment icon #9 Posted by highdesert50 on 4 April, 2013, 12:26
So, scientists have linked the smell of rain to that of the primal consumption of food. Not sure of the primal link, but it is interesting too, how clothes dried outside on a line, develop a nice smell.
Comment icon #10 Posted by moonshadow60 on 4 April, 2013, 15:30
Petrichor. What a good name for it. I love the smell of the woods after the rain, and the scent of garden dirt right afterward.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Sundew on 4 April, 2013, 19:00
I had just assumed that rain washed all the pollen, dust and pollutants out of the air for a time leaving the fresh scent of clean, pure air in their place. You can get used to just about any smell if not too overpowering, it's like if you have a dog or cat, you may not notice the odor even clean animals can impart to your home until you have been away from home for a week. So I figured that you get used to the smells of "dirty air" and then when it rains the scent of the air changed enough to be noticed.
Comment icon #12 Posted by The Silver Thong on 5 April, 2013, 3:13
Acid rain smells good i guess. I would have loved to smell rian 300 years ago emmm
Comment icon #13 Posted by 27vet on 5 April, 2013, 3:15
It is obvious. Rain cleans the air temporarily. There are also more negative ions in the air after a rainstorm.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Andromedan Starseed 333 on 6 April, 2013, 0:22
It is obvious. Rain cleans the air temporarily. There are also more negative ions in the air after a rainstorm. at 27vet what you said is true but also yeah i agree that rain does make the oils of the plants come out as well.so in reality there is more than one answer.either way i used to live in Oregon it rain often and it did smell good the air fresher and cleaner and more pure.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Asadora on 6 April, 2013, 0:33
I can't enjoy any aspect of rain. I get a terrible long lasting migraine headache right before it rains. Sometimes only when it has just started raining. And other times when it has just stopped raining. The smell of rain always triggers a form of a headache that makes me physically ill. I love to watch the rain though, if I'm not double over in pain in bed! I have been this way all of my life. From my research, it would seem it has something to do with the ozone and that there is a small minority of people on the planet that is highly reactive to this type of ozone that penetrates the air whe... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by Leave Britney alone! on 6 April, 2013, 3:25
The fresh smell of rain also comes right when it starts raining at times. Very nice if you are by greenery but if you are in a parking lot and it has not rained in a while then the first scent is not pleasant at all. All the dirt, soda, and wahatever else got dropped on the lot all comes up at once...uck.


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