The Smell Of Rain

It’s raining again today. I’m not complaining. Rain makes everyone take things a bit slower. The animals hunker down. Flowers close or droop. Even humans, though we might not want to put it in a lower gear, tend to drive a bit more cautious (at least we hope), and are even tempted to take a ‘rainy day’ nap.

What is it about rain that is so soothing to the soul? I was inspired yesterday to write a poem about it. Check it out here, if you have a moment and are into that kind of thing. I love rainy days. I mean, I don’t like rainy days on end, but a few days of rain are nice. They do remind me to appreciate those sunny days, when I have to postpone certain things because of rain. For one, it’s a free car wash. I totally don’t mind vacuuming out my vehicle, but I’m bad about washing the outside! But really, I do very much love the sound of rain. More so, I especially love the smell of the rain here in the Appalachian Mountains. I saw a post about a year ago where they actually had a name for the smell of rain….wait, what?!?

So…..I guess we’ve pretty much discovered the secrets of the universe now, right? Haha! Humans are so curious, about everything. I might have once said, “I wonder why rain smells like that”. It was a thought, nothing more. I’m glad someone took the initiative to delve deeper. I was inspired to do some research when I saw that post. The smell of rain is called Petrichor. It is derived from the Greek word meaning “stone”. The word surfaced in the 1960’s and was coined by a group of pot smoking hippies that were dancing in the rain. Ok, that’s not entirely true. The hippies were dancing but they weren’t smoking marijuana. I digress.

Seriously, the word petrichor was coined in the 1960’s by two Australian researchers. The smell is created when rain comes in contact with dry soil. When these organic compounds become mixed, the smell is released into the air. But how? The two Australian researchers,  Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G. Thomas, claimed that the smell comes from certain plant oils that are released during a dry spell. These oils are then absorbed by the soil and porous rocks in the environment. When it rains, the oil combines with an actinobacteria by-product, creating what we know as the “smell of rain”. In 2015, MIT researchers actually recorded the scent moving through the air. Amazing! Their studies also showed that the scent is carried best during a light rain. You can learn more about that study by clicking here.

Some researchers believe people are attracted to the earthly smell because of a deeply rooted instinctual relationship between rain and survival by our ancestors. I can kind of relate to this, because sometimes I can smell the rain shortly before it starts. It’s uplifting, it’s refreshing.

I have fond memories as a child of visiting my grandmother in Stillwater, PA. One of the things that stuck with me over the years was the distinct smell of the mountains. I don’t know that anyone can relate to what I’m talking about when I say ‘smell of the mountains’. When I was a teen back in the early 90’s, I rode with my high school sweetheart and his family to Ghost Town In the Sky theme park in Maggie Valley, NC. I remember going to breakfast in a restaurant one morning while there. We sat outside on a covered patio, and it was raining. It was that moment I was hooked on Smoky Mountain petrichor! Ha! I knew that moment, that I wanted to live in the Appalachian Mountains one day.

I hope you have an awesome day wherever you are! Don’t forget to stop and smell the rain!




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