Science Course with Ryan Morse: Does rain have a smell?

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – Picture raindrops falling outside after a hot and dry summer day. Many claim to smell the rain as it comes to the ground. Is there any truth to these claims? 

Petrichor is the cause for this smell, especially after a stretch of drier weather. It is the smell of the dirt and other plant compounds once rain falls and hits the ground. 

Do it yourself Experiment

To demonstrate how petrichor works, all you need is a decent amount of flour or powdered sugar.  

  1. Make a pile of powdered sugar or flour
  2. Set-up a camera focused at the top of the pile and hit record in slow motion
  3. Pour water very slowly over the powdered sugar or flour

What is going on?

In slow motion, you can see small puffy clouds of powdered sugar or flour. When rain hits the ground, this is the earthy smell of petrichor that is released once rain falls. The rain itself has no scent.  

You may see rain scented candles in the store. Most of these smells reenact the earthy aroma petrichor gives off.

During a prolonged dry stretch, people can sometimes smell petrichor before it starts raining as the ground moistens up ahead of a storm.

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