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Can People Smell the Weather?

Many people believe that they can smell the weather, particularly before a thunderstorm hits. Experts note that these people might be smelling ozone, a type of oxygen that can be produced by lightning. In addition, rainy weather is often accompanied by humidity, which enhances the ability to smell the environment. High winds and raindrops also stir up and transport the scents of both natural and man-made substances, such as asphalt, trees and vegetation.

More about weather detection:

  • There is some scientific evidence that changes in air pressure or temperature can trigger joint aches or even migraine headaches.

  • Some animals appear to be able to detect changes in weather patterns and might seek shelter when they sense a drop in atmospheric pressure. A pressure drop can signal an oncoming storm.

  • The Old Farmer's Almanac has offered 18-month weather predictions each year since 1792. Despite numerous advances in weather prediction technology, many farmers still consider the Almanac to be more reliable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can people actually smell the weather changing?

Yes, people can often sense weather changes through smell. Before rain, you might detect a sweet, earthy scent known as petrichor, which occurs when rainwater releases compounds from the soil. Additionally, lightning can produce a sharp, ozone smell due to the splitting of nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the atmosphere.

What is it that we're smelling when we say we can "smell rain"?

When people say they can "smell rain," they're usually referring to petrichor. This scent is caused by the release of geosmin and plant oils into the air, which are then absorbed by soil and rocks. Rainfall releases these compounds into the air, creating the distinctive smell that often precedes a storm.

Is the ability to smell the weather common to all individuals?

The ability to smell the weather varies among individuals. Sensitivity to scents is influenced by genetic factors and the olfactory system's condition. While many can detect weather-related scents like petrichor or ozone, others may not perceive these smells as strongly due to differences in olfactory sensitivity.

Are there any scientific studies on humans' ability to smell the weather?

Scientific studies have investigated the phenomenon of humans smelling the weather. For instance, research has identified the compound geosmin, produced by soil-dwelling bacteria, as a key contributor to the petrichor scent. Studies have also explored how humans can detect low concentrations of geosmin, indicating a sensitivity to this particular smell.

Does the ability to smell the weather serve any purpose for humans?

The ability to smell the weather may have had evolutionary advantages for humans, such as signaling the approach of rain, which could be crucial for finding water or shelter. Today, it may not serve a critical survival function, but it can still provide environmental cues and enrich our sensory experience of nature.

Can other animals smell the weather, and how does their ability compare to humans?

Many animals have a more acute sense of smell than humans and can detect weather changes more effectively. For example, dogs have a sense of smell that is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than humans, allowing them to detect weather-related scents long before humans can. This heightened ability can be crucial for survival in the wild.

Discussion Comments

By anon308064 — On Dec 08, 2012

I can remember the "rainy-tornado" smell from when I was young, and the orange tinge to the atmosphere, and no drugs. Just because we were young.

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