“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primal wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all…”
~Henry Beston, 1928 writer and naturalist, from “The Outermost House”
With wet weather in the forecast, I began this week’s column. As I gathered my sources, an image came to mind. A white farmhouse stands on the wind-swept prairie as dark storm clouds gather. The house was built by my great-grandfather; he homesteaded in Kansas, where he farmed wheat and raised 11 children. I can hear the creaky front door open, then close with a bang, as he walks onto the porch. Looking across their acreage, he turns to his wife Sarah, “It smells like it’s gonna rain.” And so it did…
We are familiar with the sound of rain. But how about the smell of rain?
Does it really have a scent? Read the labels on many soaps, candles, room sprays, shampoos and deodorants and the answer must be yes. Rain Fresh, Mountain Mist, Spring Showers, Forest Rain, Misty Morn, Cloud Burst and Summer Storm are just a few names given to the chemically-concocted fragrances in the products we use every day.
“Real rain” has several unique Mother Nature-made scent blends. All are 100% natural.
The Kansas farmer detected an odor as the storm approached; science now has an answer to its origin. In 1964, an Australian scientist researched and coined the term “petrichor” to describe the phenomena. When pre-storm clouds gather, chemical reactions and electrical charges come together creating ozone. Down drafts send the resulting smells to earth. Once the rain hits, the petrichor is more evident, as falling water displaces odoriferous molecules on surfaces. In the city the drops land on dry cement and asphalt. Outside urban areas they fall on plants and trees. Depending on where odorants rise from, some are extremely fragrant, while others equally foul. It was once believed rain drops were delivered by angels.
In the foothills there have been lots of clouds without much action … so far. On CV Weekly’s delivery day, there is a 100% chance you can get your hands on “the newspaper” while a 20-30% chance of precipitation. By the weekend and into next week, all will be a hoped-for memory. Warm and clear spring days will settle in, just where they belong. Temperatures are forecast to range from the low 50s and reaching past 80 degrees during the day. Good gardening weather…
Next week, Weather in the Foothills will address planting a bountiful garden during a time of limited water.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.