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Does rain have a scent?


Bacteria is one factor that creates the scent
Bacteria is one factor that creates the scent

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

August 19, 2012 — Many people notice a distinct smell in the air before and after it rains. But what causes it? And does rain actually have a scent?

Moist air helps transmit the smells that are already present in the atmosphere
Moist air helps transmit the smells that are already present in the atmosphere

It's been said that flowers smell best just before the rain.

The sweet, earthy scent that hangs in the air when showers are on the way is often described as pleasant, but its source may come as a surprise.

Contrary to popular belief, rain doesn't have a scent.

The smell actually comes from bacteria in the ground and oils found on plants and trees, amplified by damp conditions and rain water.

"The moisture present in the air before and after rain allows for a bacteria called actinomycetes to release spores," says Monica Vaswani, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

"That's once factor that creates the scent."

Cool, dry air can't carry odours well -- but the moist, humid air associated with rain can.

The conditions present in the atmosphere before and after a shower help magnify aromas that are always there, but often unnoticed -- like earthy soil, fresh-cut grass, and blossoming flowers.

Visit the Canadian Cities Index to track potential showers in your neighbourhood.

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