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Many people notice a distinct smell in the air before and after it rains. But what causes it? And does rain actually have a scent?

Does rain really have a scent?

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    Cheryl Santa Maria
    Digital Reporter

    Monday, April 7, 2014, 6:09 PM -

    The threat of heavy rain is dominating weather headlines across the country triggering, for some, a familiar scent in the air.

    It's been said that flowers smell best just before the rain -- but why is that?

    Does rain actually have a scent?

    The sweet, earthy scent that hangs in the air when showers are on the way is often described as pleasant, but its source may come as a surprise.

    RELATED: Visit the Canadian Cities Index to track potential showers in your neighbourhood.

    Contrary to popular belief, rain doesn't have a scent.

    The smell actually comes from bacteria in the ground and oils found on plants and trees, amplified by damp conditions and rain water.

    "The moisture present in the air before and after rain allows for a bacteria called actinomycetes to release spores," says Monica Vaswani, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

    "That's once factor that creates the scent."

    Cool, dry air can't carry odours well -- but the moist, humid air associated with rain can.

    The conditions present in the atmosphere before and after a shower help magnify aromas that are always there, but often unnoticed -- like earthy soil, fresh-cut grass, and blossoming flowers.

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