What causes that fantastic after-the-rain smell?


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I remember reading somewhere that there’s a word in French for the smell you smell when it first starts to rain, but don’t remember what it is - anyone?

I knew a gal from Michigan and she never understood why people would talk poetically about the smell after rain. “Smells like dead worms,” she’d say, and I would laugh.

Then I was in Michigan when it rained after a dry smell… yuck. Smells like dead worms.

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Love that post-rain, wormy smell. Not just because pollen got a beatdown, either.



Oh, ozone Before the rain begins, one of the first odors you may notice as winds pick up and clouds roll in is a sweet, pungent zing in your nostrils.

Spores. Sometimes ozone. Near the ocean there’s some Hydrogen Sulfide involved.

This is why I keep a bunch of dead worms handy if I want to trick people into thinking it’s going to rain.

It still hasn’t worked, but I’m not going to give up hope just based on several years of empirical data and science!

(Note: I don’t watch FOX news, I’m just kind of randomly stubborn/irrationally hopeful)

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The most extreme case of this that I saw (smelled) was after a summer hailstorm on a mountain. It was a pretty hot day anyway and the hail was heavy for about 10 minutes, then stopped abruptly and evaporated within the next half hour. There were clouds of water vapour coming from the ground and the whole area was giving off an amazing scent of the wild rosemary which grew all around and had just been pummeled by the hail.

I thought this was already thoroughly explained in The Five Doctors -

TURLOUGH: It’s marvellous here. I feel so calm and relaxed.
DOCTOR 5: It’s the high bombardment of positive ions.
TEGAN: It’s like Earth after a thunderstorm.
DOCTOR 5: Same cause and reason.

What this website needs is a larger, more powerful like button.

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Also a button for that fresh after-the-rain smell.

Or a worm button.

I’d take that as well. :wink:

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