Smelling the approach of rain

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
I can sometimes smell the approach of rain. Friends say I’m crazy, but I would like your comments.
—Frank Mercer
Dear Frank,
You are not crazy. There is a very distinctive smell associated with rain. It’s called “petrichor.” In studies conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Cullen Buie and graduate students working with him identified the mechanism by which raindrops cause aerosols to be released into the air. When a raindrop hits a porous surface, tiny bubbles of air are trapped at the point of contact. The bubbles then shoot upward, bursting from the drop in a fizz of aerosols. The aerosols are released during light or moderate rains, but not so much during heavier rains, and they account for the familiar “smell of rain.”

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