Petrichor: Why is the Smell of Soil After the First Rain So Sweet?

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Rain is one of the most beautiful gifts bestowed on us by nature. Almost everyone (except bats and foxes) love the rainy season, especially the first rain of the summer season.The sight of raindrops falling after a long summer is truly beautiful, and the only thing more beautiful is the ‘smell’ of that rain when it first hits the ground.

Yes, the smell that makes us poetic and romantic seems to come from rain striking fresh soil. Many are familiar with this smell, but why does that particular rain smell so wonderful? Water itself does not have any smell, so what’s the secret behind this beautiful smell?

Let’s find out…

It’s you… Petrichor!

Petrichor: The earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil is called petrichor.

The scent is caused by two things:

1)Bacteria: Soil-dwelling bacteria called actinomycetes produce spores in the dry soil. When rain falls on these spores, it displaces them. The moist air carries these spores, so we’re able to smell them.

2) Plants: Certain plants and trees release oil that gets collected on soil and rocks. The rain causes this oil to be displaced in the air, and that sweet smell is also carried to our eager noses.

There is one final reason: the infamous Ozone layer is another reason behind the sweet smell of rain. Watch this video to find out a bit more about how this peculiar natural phenomenon works:


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Live Science
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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About the Author:

Ashwin Vinod has a B.Tech in Electronics and Communications from APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Trivandrum (India). He likes to watch movies, reading fiction novels and surf the internet.

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