What is the Smell of Rain?


A discussion of physical rain implies the same in the spiritual realm.

The science aspect:





The word is “petrichor,” and it’s used to describe the distinct scent of rain in the air. Or, to be more precise, it’s the name of an oil that’s released from the Earth into the air before rain begins to fall.

This heady smell of oncoming wet weather is something most people are familiar with – in fact, some scientists now suggest that humans inherited an affection for the smell from ancestors who relied on rainy weather for their survival.-



Even the word itself has ancient origins. It’s derived from the Greek “petra” (stone) and “ichor” which, in Greek mythology, is the ethereal blood of the gods.

But the story behind its scientific discovery is a lesser known tale. So, how is it that we came to find this heavenly blood in the stone?

Nature of Argillaceous Odour might be a mouthful, but this was the name of the paper published in the Nature journal of March 7, 1964, by CSIRO scientists Isabel (Joy) Bear and Richard Thomas, that first described petrichor.

Thomas had for years been trying to identify the cause for what was a long-known and widespread phenomena. As the paper opened:

That many natural dry clays and soils evolve a peculiar and characteristic odor when breathed on, or moistened with water, is recognized by all the earlier text books of mineralogy.

The odor was particularly prevalent in arid regions and was widely recognized and associated with the first rains after a period of drought. The paper went on to say:

There is some evidence that drought-stricken cattle respond in a restless matter to this “smell of rain.”

The smell had actually been described already by a small perfumery industry operating out of India, which had successfully captured and absorbed the scent in sandalwood oil.

They called it “matti ka attar” or “Earth perfume”. But its source was still unknown to science.


Joy and Richard, working at what was then our Division of Mineral Chemistry in Melbourne, were determined to identify and describe its origin.

By steam distilling rocks that had been exposed to warm, dry conditions in the open, they discovered a yellowish oil – trapped in rocks and soil but released by moisture – that was responsible for the smell.

The diverse nature of the host materials has led us to propose the name “petrichor” for this apparently unique odor which can be regarded as an “ichor” or “tenuous essence” derived from rock or stone.

The oil itself was thus named petrichor – the blood of the stone.


Bring on the humidity

The smell itself comes about when increased humidity – a pre-cursor to rain – fills the pores of stones (rocks, soil, etc) with tiny amounts of water.

While it’s only a minuscule amount, it is enough to flush the oil from the stone and release petrichor into the air.

This is further accelerated when actual rain arrives and makes contact with the Earth, spreading the scent into the wind.


According to the Nature Paper:

In general, materials in which silica or various metallic silicates predominated were outstanding in their capacity to yield the odor.

It was also noted that the odor could be obtained from freshly ignited materials rich in iron oxide, with or without silica.

It’s a beautiful sequence of events, but one that may be hard to visualize.

Thankfully, in a testament to the ongoing scientific fascination with this finding, a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have just this year released a super slow motion video of the petrichor process in motion.


Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps tiny air bubbles at the point of contact.

As in a glass of champagne, the bubbles then shoot upward, ultimately bursting from the drop in a fizz of aerosols.

The team was also able to predict the amount of aerosols released, based on the velocity of the raindrop and the permeability of the contact surface which may explain how certain soil-based diseases spread.


Spiritual aspect:

What impressed me was the comment that the stones have oil in them, and the rain beating down on the stones release this oil into the air.

This is what happens in a true worship experience where the person, who is the porous stone, and filled with the aromatic oil of the Holy Spirit, is rained upon by the presence of God.

As the presence of God comes down, the perfume of worship goes up.

And as the oil of worship goes up, the presence of God comes down.

One elicits the other.


And we are living stones which receive both the oil and the rain, and as we receive, we give back to God.

So to me, nature reflects heaven.

And it inspires me to think of us as creation, with heavenly blood in our stones.


11 Responses to “What is the Smell of Rain?”

  1. […] here for […]

  2. Every little detail of God’s creation is fascinating.

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  4. All that exits, all the world, all matter, all the unseen was and is of God. All of science is a wonderful search for all that already exists. The Sciences can become a remarkable discovery and awareness of the unfathomable Excellence of God.

    Man and Woman are an incredible special creation of God who are able to soak up the actual heart of God, the “HEH” of God ( Abram became Abraham and Sari became Sarah ) and understand His deepest affection and deepest love.

    This “ESSENCE OF GOD” can be called the aroma of God. . . the very “AWE” of God.

    To discover it, stirs, an all of a sudden, excitement of life itself, . . .all around us, and even in us. We can experience a quickening that awakens us to God. In science the appearance of this intelligent “Life Force” that powers all, is overwhelming evident in everything.

    “IN THE BEGINNING. . .” God spoke and it was. All that came into being was forever (perfection).

    We ourselves are a proof of that. . .or not.

    God allowed Man and Woman to choose to continue in this remarkable “Life Force “ or be separate from it . . . “ SURELY YOU WILL DIE”.

    What happened is that they exchanged “the Truth” for the “Lie”.

    Their exchange caused them to lose their “forever” Power Source for an inferior timed battery life that would surely lose all power and die.

    God said I encourage you to choose Life that it will go well for you and your children.

    Man and Woman seem to fall for the deceit that they could live without God’s POWER SOURCE and still live.

    Man and Woman fell for the original scam that you can be “ like God”.

    Today anyone who is unwilling to acknowledge God also rejects the Life Force, the very “AWE” of God, that will refresh, rejuvenate and revitalize them and their children.

    All of God’s creation can regain His POWER SOURCE, it is God’s True Love for all of creation and for you.

    That is the good news of the gospel . . . a free gift.

    Everyone can receive by choice to have God and His FOREVER LIFE FORCE (GOD HIMSELF) that will go on and on forever.

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  6. I knew it! 🙂 I knew that one can smell rain before it actually falls from the sky. I knew it! I just didn’t have a perspective, scientific or otherwise, to place it in. It makes sense, too, that we have the blood of God on us, and in us, and all around us. If we can only acknowledge that which is, or not and see only a puddle of mud. Or, like those who see it, feel it, smell it, experience it, acknowledge it to be the life force that it is.

    Praise God, Amen.

  7. The following comes from Jerusalem Connection.org. . .

    Spring blows in with a soothing breeze, easing us out of the harsh winter and into a promise of warmer and gentler days. Flowers blossom, flying creatures fill the air, and clouds disappear from the horizon. New life is breathed into the creation, and it seems that every day brings with it the promise of good things about to happen.

    From where comes this manifestation of positivity and what are we supposed to do with it?

    Did you ever hear the expression “something’s in the air”? when we can feel something, but it’s just out of our reach, and yet we know it’s there, that’s when we say “there’s something in the air”. Judaism tells us that at all times, there is “something in the air”.

    At any particular time, there is a spiritual influence, an ineffable influx, just beyond us, waiting to be tapped into. The minute we tap into it, it becomes a part of us, and we become imbued with it (to impregnate or inspire, as with feelings, opinions, a personal awakening).

    At only one time of the Jewish calendar year is this more evident then during this spring month of Iyar (April-May). The other time is during the high holidays (September-October), between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. At that time, the message in the air is, “call out to Him while He is close, so you can be refreshed and renewed”.

    Iyar ( the months of April-May) represents springtime’s new growth and new birth, and it can be for us, a very valuable time to sense who we are, and Who we come from.

    Maybe we can experiencean be this wonderful time of refreshment and our hearts can be more alive. Yes to start a new !

    It’s in the air ! A subtle reminder of our God and Creator.

    Teshuvah means to return completely to God so He can make us complete again.

    I’m runnin’ to the One Who knows me
    Who made every part of me in His hands. . .

    I am beautifully and wondrously made. . . altogether beautiful , no flaw or blemish. . all because of YOU. . . Your finished WORK. . . JESUS.

    “God. . . a perfect state of awe and perfection.” (WITH US,IN US)

    God Bless.

  8. If you have an option to store a Pleasant smell of something, what would it be?

    Hi Thats a brilliant question… Mitti ki khushboo …. the aroma of soil when water is sprinkled on it or when rains come…. That is awesome…. ​ I would have stored it…. thats great… Now will tell u a fact behind that people generally dont know…

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