the chemistry of rain

Image credit: Compound Interest

I love, love, love rain.  Everything about it, the smell before, during and after, the way everything feels so clean after a rainfall — there’s just nothing I don’t like about it.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that there’s an aroma chemical, Geosmin, that captures a facet of rain that gives it that earthy aroma. OMG!  You’re thinking, gotta have it, right?  Me too! Done like dinner. Got it from Hermitage, not cheap, but it is a totally cool olfactive experience.

Of course I had to find out more about Geosmin and in my research I found a site that explains chemistry in a really, really understandable way, for me at least (told you I’m thick in the head about chemistry and math).  More importantly, it keeps all the synthetic vs natural tug of war stuff going on grounded in basic, clear to understand, information which to me is much better than remaining in ignorance.  The site is called Compound Interest and there’s a well-written article on the Chemical Compounds Behind the Smell of Rain.  How cool is that?!

To my surprise, the smell before and after a rainfall is due to plant oils, bacteria and ozone and that particular combination of those three elements is known as ‘petrichor’.  He goes on to break down those three aspects in greater detail. For example, did you know that “Soil dwelling bacteria called actinomycetes secret the compound geosmin, which has an earthy aroma, when they produce spores.  Rain can disturb the compound from the soil. Human noses can detect it at less than 5 parts per trillion — equivalent to a teaspoon in 200 Olympic swimming pools.” (Compound Interest)

Love this site! See, told you chemistry can be fun!


2 thoughts on “the chemistry of rain

  1. Hello there, I saw you order at whitelotusaromatics.. did you happen to check their images gallery?? it says at the top, go to the file about MITTI….
    have a lovely day, Eline


    1. Hey there, yep, I get a lot of stuff from WLA, and I totally love their service. Thanks for the tip about their images! Just checked it out and since their not copyrighted will definitely include them, with credit, on the site. Thanks, Eline! Have a wonderful day!


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