Dear Crabby, How Can Some People Smell Rain Coming?

Dear Crabby, How can some people smell rain coming? Is it true they can smell it before it even gets to their location?

Wonderingly, Super Sniffer


Dear Super Sniffer,

You may have to retrain that sniffer of yours, because it’s true, some people can smell the rain’s a comin’. Call it intuition or an old farmer’s trick, when the right weather conditions exist, anyone’s nose can become a weather predictor … at least for rain. But how does it work?

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Dear Crabby Gives Advice

A few things can happen before the rain hits to let you know it’s on its way. First of all, you’re usually downwind of where the rain is – hence the fact it’s coming in your direction – therefore, the smells carry in your direction as well. So, in the distance, the rain is hitting the ground and stirring up odors – musty odors – from bacteria, plant and animal matter, and dirt. Once all that gets wet, the wind sends it in the direction of the rain … ahead of the rain. That earthy-smell is a sure sign it’s raining, somewhere, and heading in your direction. That combination of compounds is called a petrichor.

In addition, if it’s thundering and lightening outside, that produces Ozone – also carried by the wind – which is a sweet, zingy smell, an almost clean electrical odor. That crackle in the air is chopping up atoms and turning nitrogen and oxygen into ozone. And that smell of ozone can mean the clouds are about to open up!

It’s not rocket science, but it does take a good nose to tell if the neighbor is watering their lawn or a storm is brewing. If you can’t smell the rain, don’t worry about, just get the free app for your phone. And when the rain does get here, I’m one of the few that know it’s raining first … all because of my hairline.

Thanks for your question!

Dear Crabby.


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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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