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Word of the Week: Petrichor
February 07, 2019 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Photo by Andrew Yee

Petrichor [PET-rih-core] (noun): The wondrous smell of earth after rain fall.

This word comes from the Greek words “petra”, which means stone, and “ichor”, which means the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

Something good that came out of all the freezing rain we had this past week was that fresh earthy smell, permeating from the few patches of green on the ground. This distinctive odor always has a way of making you feel nostalgic, remembering times in your childhood when you were outside splashing around in the wet grass or the puddles that formed near your home.

The rain itself has no scent so where does this petrichor scent come from?

It’s all chemistry!

The first chemical reaction comes from the fragrant oils secreted by some plants reacting with the rain in a way which releases these oils into the air. The second reaction is when the scented chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria are released.

The aromatic compounds released from both reactions create that pleasant petrichor scent when rain hits the ground.

With the season of Spring slowly approaching, we can look forward to a lot more petrichor!

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