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Weather Works: Why can you smell the rain before and during a storm?

The distinct smell of rain never gets old but why does rain have a smell?

MACON, Ga. — Fall weather wouldn't be fall weather without some of the rainy and cooler days sprinkled in. 

Whenever rain is on the way some of us can sense it before the drops start falling.

The distinct smell of rain never gets old but why does rain have a smell?

The scent can come from a couple of factors: lightning and plant bacteria.

Before any rain falls lightning can already put on a show. When lightning strikes it can split oxygen molecules in atmosphere.

A stray oxygen atom can then combine with two other oxygen molecules to create ozone. Once the ozone molecule hits your nose you start to smell the storm a-brewing.

When rain starts to fall our noses pick up more of an earthy scent. That’s because when the rain drops hit the plants below it interacts with the bacteria on those plants.

The rain allows the bacteria’s chemicals to rise from the plant into the air and into our noses.

We call this specific scent petrichor.

So now you know why rain has a smell!

And that's how your weather works!

If you have any questions on weather phenomena and why they work, be sure to email us at news@13wmaz.com. 


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