Friday, January 11, 2008

Why is there a peculiar smell after a shower (rain)?

The peculiar smell immediately after a shower is due to certain volatile chemical compounds released by a group of soil-inhabiting bacteria called streptomycetes.

Streptomycetes, grouped as actinomycetes, are abundant in dry warm soil, a million of them can be detected in a gram of the soil. They release compounds such as geosmin and 2 methyl isoborneol when wetted by rain water after a long dry spell. That is why we get the musty odour only after the first rain of the rainy season. The smell can be felt in newly ploughed lands also.