Study shows how some people are able to smell rain after a storm

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CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Earth is full of wonderful sights and sounds. But that’s not all. Our sense of smell also gets tickled every now and then. Especially after a rainfall.

That rich, earthy scent that lingers after it rains has a name. It’s called “petrichor”. Now, for the first time, MIT scientists are looking into how that “rain smell” gets into the air and they’ve brought their cameras along.

For the study, researchers took high-speed footage of raindrops as they splattered on various surfaces. Scientists found oils and chemicals already on the ground get trapped underneath a fallen droplet. The impact also creates tiny air bubbles inside the drop, which then shoot upwards carrying the oils and chemicals with them.

The air bubbles burst when they reach the top of the drop, and release an aerosol mists into the air. This “fizz” gets carried off with the breeze before finally winding up inside our noses.

But before you take such a prolonged sniff, be warned. The study might also shed light on how rainfall might spread diseases like E. coli through the environment, and even to humans. It might smell good, but there’s a small chance might also make you sick. Sorry to rain on your parade.

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