Short Wave: The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell

Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria.

But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery… until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.

In this episode, we hear from Klas Flärdh, a professor of microbiology at Lund University in Sweden; Mahmoud Al-Bassam, a researcher at University of California, San Diego; and Paul Becher, a chemical ecologist and a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

You can find their paper in Nature Microbiology here.

Email the show at

This episode was produced by Rebecca Ramirez, edited by Viet Le, and fact-checked by Berly McCoy and Emily Vaughn herself.


Short Wave Podcast

It’s science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

Science Topics
Biology, Microbiology
Middle School, High School
7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, Adults

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