Have you ever predicted rain, just by the scent of it? I know I have. And when it turns out to be accurate, I have taken a full-fledged credit for it as well. I mean, who doesn’t like a good shower after a long dry spell? But for a long time, I felt like there are only a few gifted human creatures who can smell the scent of rain, even before its arrival. Then, one fine day, I came across a report. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t even a little bit disappointed to know that some plants and certain bacteria living in the soil create this smell. The first thought I had after reading? I have to tell you guys about this.
Thus, in this article, I am going to talk about the mesmerizing scent that indicates rain.
As I said, you can detect this smell before the arrival of rain. But it becomes more distinctive after a few fat raindrops hit the ground. So, what creates this smell, you ask? It’s a combination of plant oils produced during a dry spell and the actinobacteria living in the soil. The scent is named Petrichor. Scientists Isabel Joy Bear and Richard Thomas, in an article – published in the 1964 Nature journal – called “Nature of Argillaceous Odour”, first coined this term. But it is not only the particular scent that has a name; even the combination itself also has a name – geosmin.
The actinobacterial decomposition slows down during a prolonged dry spell, and as a result, it slows down the formation of geosmin. But just before rainfall, humidity rises in the air. It speeds up the decomposition procedure, resulting in more production of geosmin. The moment raindrops hit the soil, they splatter tiny water droplets that carry small air bubbles. These air bubbles, which are also known as aerosols, contain the geosmin chemical. These aerosols then amalgamate with other petrichor compounds created by the tree oils and dissolve in the rain. The wind carries these amalgamated aerosols, and with that, it brings the earthy smell that we all like fondly.
But, surprisingly, this is not the only time when Petrichor is created! Nature works in such mysterious ways! Petrichor can be made in another way as well. During a thunderstorm, lightning splits the oxygen and nitrogen molecules present in the air to form nitric oxide. In combination with other elements present in the air, this nitric oxide creates ozone. This has somewhat similar but has more of a chemical smell to it.
On other occasions, the scent just gets carried by the air from a wet weather area, helping us presume the arrival of rain. But no matter the way, this will always remain a unique experience to all the pluviophiles. These simple moments sometimes become the defining moment of life. And just like life, nature also has its way, which is ever so beautiful.
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