The smell of rain

RainAmsterdamTheNetherlands

By Massimo Catarinella (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In one of my previous posts I wrote on how certain sounds like the sound of rain can calm us down and reduce stress (put link here), but what about other aspects of it? In this post I will be talking/writing about how the smell of rain can calm you down.

All of us have probably smelt rain in our lifetimes and most of us probably like the smell very much, but why is that? What is it about the smell of rain that attracts us?

Well I have a theory, but before I tell it to you we need to go through some supportive evidence. First we have an article from livescience.com titled, “Why Does Rain Smell Good?” by Elizabeth Palermo. In this article they talk about how some scientists believe that we get our love for the scent of rain from our ancestors, who depended on rain for their survival. The article also talks about a scent called petrichor, a smell that is produced by the chemical reaction between oils that are secreted by plants during dry periods, chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria called actinomycetes, and the rain itself. The term petrichor was coined by two Australian scientists, Isabel Joy Bear and R. G. Thomas, who specifically studied the aroma of rain.

The article also mentions how lightning creates ozone in the air and how this smell is also associated with rain.

Next we have an article posted on smithsonian.com titled, “What Makes Rain Smell So Good?” by Joseph Stromberg. This article also mentions the two Australian scientists and the smells of petrichor and the ozone, but that is not what I am focusing on. Just like the other article, this one also talks about how our ancestors loved the smell of rain since it meant they would be able to grow food.

So here’s my theory, the reason why we calm down and like the smell of rain is because for us it used to mean survival. Back then farming was one of our primary sources of food and the rain meant that the crops would grow and we would be able to survive another season.  Even today, agriculture is one of our main sources of food even if only some of us take active part in it. Because rain was a signal of survival for our ancestors, this trait of the smell of rain calming us has carried on even today. While it is true that excessive rain is a cause for alarm and can make us blue that doesn’t change the fact that many of us like the smell.

So the next time it starts to rain open the windows and take a good whiff, nice smells always make us feel good so might as well make the most of it.

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