COLUMBIA, S.C. — Before a storm, you may have heard someone say they can smell a storm is coming.
The scent their nostrils are picking up is ozone.
Ozone is a naturally present gas in the atmosphere that gets its name from the Greek word, “ozein,” which means “smell,” according to the NOAA. During storms, downdraft winds bring down sweet, pungent-smelling ozone from higher altitudes to nose level.
The smell that fills the air during or after rain is called Petrichor.
The scent of Petrichor is described as being reminiscent of freshly-mowed grass or musky and earthy. This distinctive fragrance is produced by the combination of compounds released by plants, such as geosmin, and by soil microorganisms, such as actinomycetes. These compounds are released into the air when raindrops strike the dry ground, creating a distinctive fragrance that is carried by the wind.
Many people find the scent of Petrichor to be soothing and calming, so next time you experience the scent, take a moment to appreciate nature.