What’s That Smell in the Central New York Air Before it Rains?
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can 'smell' the rain? The Central sky is cloudy, and the air just smells...like rain. But what is that smell, really?
Yesterday, it rained here in Utica, and I swear, for at least an hour before the skies opened up - you could smell the rain. Are we losing our minds or is there something to that?
It turns out - there's a scientific explanation for that 'rain' smell. In fact, there are three chemicals that can contribute to the scent your nose picks up during wet weather.
Ozone results when an electrical charge - like lightning - interacts with chemicals in the atmosphere, ultimately creating the pungent-smelling molecule. "The scent of ozone heralds stormy weather because a thunderstorm's downdrafts carry ozone from higher altitudes to nose level," according to Scientific American.
The earthy smell of petrichor is caused “by oils derived from plants, primarily leaves, that accumulate over dry periods,” said Jeff Weber, a meteorologist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Unidata Program Center.
“These oils settle into soils or onto pavement over time and are released into the atmosphere by being disturbed by rainfall,” Weber tells Accuweather.
The distinctive smell of geosmin is created as microorganisms in the soil die off. It tends to smell strongest when it's been raining for a long period of time.
Petrichor and geosmin occur as a result of the interaction with water and the subsequent release of aerosolized compounds, according to Accuweather.
So, yes, you can smell the rain - both before it arrives and while it's raining. It's not just that guy from Twister.