That New Rain Smell, Explained
April showers bring May flowers, as the age-old saying goes—and with both comes the scent of freshly dampened soil that we’ve come to associate strongly with spring. This distinctively earthy scent is more than just wet dirt, and scientists have known of geosmin, the chemical compound to which we attribute the smell of fresh rain, since the 1960s. But recent research reveals its role in nature’s grand algorithm: According to New Atlas, geosmin is produced by certain bacteria from the genus Streptomyces as a way to attract a specific arthropod, called a springtail, which helps spread its spores. Researchers suggest that this selective advantage evolved over time to create a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and the arthropods, similar to what birds and bees are to flowers, making it a “500-million-year-old example of chemical communication.” If you love the smell of fresh rain as much as we do, but remain largely stuck indoors right now, D.S. & Durga’s Big Sur After Rain fragrance, available as a hand soap and a hand-sanitizer spray (the candle option, sadly, is sold out, at least for the moment), offers a close-to-the-real-thing alternative in a bottle.