The Smell Of Rain

We often see comments on the PWL page about how much people love the ‘smell of rain’… the distinctive scent which accompanies the first rain after a long dry period.  Have you ever wondered what that smell is? Well, it’s got a name… Petrichor.

The word comes from two Greek words, petros, meaning stone and ichor, referring to the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

The term was first used in 1964 by two Australian researchers in an article that they wrote in a nature journal. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, which is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. When it rains, the oil is released into the air. In another article some time later, they showed that the oil seems to delay seed germination and early plant growth. It seemed that the plants produced the oil in order to safeguard the seeds from germination during long dry spells or periods of drought.

I don’t know about you, but when I catch a whiff of the ‘smell of rain’… many childhood memories of growing up in the bush come flooding back.

This information is adapted and used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License.  Image ©Matt Fricker Photography/Perth Weather Live