The Grocery Store
The new supermarket near my apartment has an automatic water mister to keep
the produce fresh. Just before it goes on, you hear the sound of distant
thunder and the smell of fresh rain.
When you approach the milk cases, you hear cows mooing and witness the
scent of fresh hay.
When you approach the egg case, you hear hens cluck and cackle and the air
is filled with the pleasing aroma of bacon and eggs frying.
The veggie department features the smell of fresh buttered corn.
I don't buy toilet paper there any more.
As it turns out, the smells people associate with rainstorms can be
caused by a number of things. One of the more pleasant rain smells,
the one we often notice in the woods, is actually caused by bacteria!
Actinomycetes, a type of filamentous bacteria, grow in soil when
conditions are damp and warm. When the soil dries out, the bacteria
produces spores in the soil. The wetness and force of rainfall kick
these tiny spores up into the air where the moisture after a rain acts
as an aerosol (just like an aerosol air freshener). The moist air
easily carries the spores to us so we breathe them in. These spores
have a distinctive, earthy smell we often associate with rainfall. The
bacteria is extremely common and can be found in areas all over the
world, which accounts for the universality of this sweet
"after-the-rain" smell. Since the bacteria thrives in moist soil but
releases the spores once the soil dries out, the smell is most acute
after a rain that follows a dry spell, although you'll notice it to
some degree after most rainstorms.
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