On The Smell Of Rain…

Surprising Science – The Smell of rain

I have talked recently of how we model the world in our brains. This requires a lot of rules about the world around us and how it acts. In the linked article there are several references to how we might have inherited these rules culturally. The article itself is interesting. I am posting about it because it demonstrates the casual way in which we share rules for modelling the world, and how those affect HOW we model the world in our brains.

But apart from the specific chemicals responsible, there’s also the deeper question of why we find the smell of rain pleasant in the first place. Some scientists have speculated that it’s a product of evolution.
Anthropologist Diana Young of the University of Queensland in Australia, for example, who studied the culture of Western Australia’s Pitjantjatjara people, has observed that they associate the smell of rain with the color green, hinting at the deep-seated link between a season’s first rain and the expectation of growth and associated game animals, both crucial for their diet. She calls this “cultural synesthesia”—the blending of different sensory experiences on a society-wide scale due to evolutionary history.

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  1. Fortunately, it’s raining now where I lived. Honestly I do not consider the smell of rain a pleasant one. At least not in general, mostly I find it stinking.

    • It does have a distinctive smell. I never associated beats with that smell. To me they are distinct. It doesn’t surprise me that at least some folk find the smell pungent.

  2. I love the smell of rain, especially when it hits hot pavement and you can feel the heat radiating off of it.

    • Where I live, a light rain in summer just makes steam. That too is an interesting smell, I agree. I think the smell after a storm with a funnel cloud in it is especially distinctive… I love those storms. So powerful, so unyielding… standing in the rain watching them come and pass over is like standing in the woods watching a bear as it lumbers past… exhilarating!

      • My favorite is the smell and feel right before a hurricane hits. You can feel the electricity in the air, as the atmosphere turns the slightest shade of murky green. I enjoy them more now that I no longer live outside of New Orleans.

        • Yeah, NO is not the best place to appreciate storms LOL

          • Especially if you live there. When Gustav hit I was securely inland, but the husband was working in New Orleans with the Guard. I woke up puking the night it hit and the night before I went home to find my house severely messed up. Nerves.

            • Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose… that’s the business of confrontation. Here (Texas) it’s always a confrontation and gamble. I’ve got a new fence, and a fixed roof. We’ll see what nature can throw at me this fall. It is a thrill, a gamble, and in a way it defines life in just an hour or so.

              • Are you in Texas. I thought you lived in Missour-ha.

                • Wow, Misery was a long time ago… interesting that you picked that up. I wonder what I said that gave that away?

                  Yes, I’m in Texas… good or bad, I’m here.

                  • You told me you are from Missouri–The show me state. What part of Texas, if you don’t mind me asking.

                    • I’m living in a bubble of non-Texans in North Texas. It’s an interesting place, ranked in the top 10 for many years now as the best place to live.

                    • Are you happy there? I’m very taken with Austin.

                    • Austin is good. Up here it’s a bit different, but I like it. I’ve lived a number of places in my life and this is better than most.

                    • I don’t really care much for Texas, except for Austin. I’ve only been a few places though.

                    • There is a part north of Dallas that is family awesome kind of place… I’m there.

                    • The only time I have been to Dallas is to use the airport. I’m glad you are somewhere comfortable.

                      Not too far away from me.

                    • It is indeed comfortable… shamefully so when I think of others around the world. The kings of England past would envy the life I live

                    • We do live in a unique time in history.

                    • Well, it’s unique.. so far 😉
                      I’m enjoying it with a pleasure more sound than I deserve at times. I’m fortunate.

                    • You are attentive to the present moment. Kings would envy you that alone.

                    • I like to think I have a little bit different take on life. I have imagined the life of a king in times past… little resource, less convenience, the harshness of life sat squarely on the shoulders of a king. Things he could not do anything about were his responsibility. Think public health here… Thankless job for not enough pay, yet they soldiered on (some good, some really bad) to get us to where we are now. Without them, my clothing and food would be very different to say the least. What hardy and strong people they were.

                    • There is something to be said for modern medicine, vaccines and vibrators. Other than that–I could have done it. I don’t mean live as a king or queen, but just a normal person. A wife and a mother, a homemaker working a garden or a farm.

                    • There is pleasure in making life work, no doubt. I’m all about the conveniences of this modern life. I’d survive, but having seen what I live now… I’d rather not do without it. This is the evolution of humankind…

                    • Good night, Mr. Evolutionary.

                    • Good night ‘good girl’

      • I’m with you on that–the rain thrills me too. I love sitting in a house with a tin roof and listening as a rain storm pass over. So comforting.

        • In my head is this voice screaming at the wind “HA you didn’t get me this time! Try again” and it kind of feels like “I’m stronger than you, bring it” … It’s an awesome thing.

          • I never tempt mother nature like that, not even in my head. For me it’s more of stepping up to the moment and not backing down. Being brave enough to take it all in and become a part of it.

            • Oh, I’m not tempting nature, but if nature designs to come calling, I’ll take that challenge.

              • I have no doubt of that. None at all. 🙂

  3. I love the smell of rain especially after a dry spell.

    • I like the ozone smell… it’s ‘fresh’

  4. I love rain…the smell…the storms…
    As a child I always walked (barefoot) during the storms. I felt so very alive…
    my husband was horrified and forbid me to allow the children to do the same. lightening dangers I was apparently underestimating. 😀
    We DO play in the rain, but only when there is no accompanying lighting or thunder. I do so love the thunder though. But i have never experienced a storm where anyone was lost or in true danger…..that would probably put a damper on my love for it..
    the only thing i hate…
    is the after…
    earth worms everywhere…you cannot avoid them. I pull the car out of the parking lot and my boys will say…well mom, you just murdered a hundred worms…how do you feel? ::shudder::

    • I had no idea how many people love the smell and ‘experience’ of storms 😉

      Those earthworms are a sign of a healthy lawn. To me, it is much sadder to not see them after a rain.

      Thanks for commenting

    • desireunspoken
    • May 17th, 2013

    I am finally in the majority, I too love the smell of rain, the feel of it on my skin and the taste of it as it runs down my face and onto my lips, my taste-buds become alive as do I. Not sure why, maybe it invokes a feeling of renewal, rebirth, replenished. On the flip side I find storms with thunder and lightening frightful.

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