The smell of rain is unmistakable: the wet asphalt, the damp vegetation, the air full of droplets create an aroma that fascinates many of us, waiting to see the sun come back. The scent of the storm continues to linger even after the clouds have cleared, but is it possible to smell it even before it starts to rain? According to science yes: some people are able to do it. Let’s see how and why.
Sure you know the characteristic smell of rain, but have you ever been able to smell it in the air before the water even started falling from the sky? Some people may possess this ” power ,” according to science. It can certainly come in handy to dodge the downpours and take shelter ahead of time, or go out with an umbrella even though the sky is still blue and clear.
The clean scent that lingers in the air after a storm has a precise name, ” petrichor “. It derives from the Greek, from petros (stone) and ichor, i.e. the substance that flowed within the veins of the Greek deities . Thus, the term coined by mineralogists Isabel Joy Bear and Richard Thomas in 1964 roughly means “the blood of the stone”. The odor is due to a soil bacterium, which releases the chemical called geosmin . Our sense of smell is able to detect it in a surprising way, superior even to the ability of sharks to perceive the smell of blood.
Why does the smell of rain attract us this way? In reality, these bacteria produce it to attract organisms to the soil and spread them to other places. When the drops land on the ground, in fact, they can cage air pockets , which swell and wander invisible, bringing with them the characteristic smell which becomes very strong and widespread after the rain.
Another smell that has a strong impact on us is that of chemical ozone , which has a particular and sweeter aroma than petrichor: being able to smell it in the air means intuiting that there is a storm coming, since the gas bubbles are pushed onto the ground by the strong winds that precede the atmospheric event, thus ending up “within the nostrils”.
This would explain why some of us are able to capture it prematurely and foresee the arrival of rain: nothing mystical and mysterious therefore, but it is a question of having a particularly developed and attentive sense of smell.
Has this ever happened to you?
via IFL Science