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What's up with that spring stink?

What's behind that awful smell during the spring thaw
20210230 wet grass
Wet grass in the spring can bring with it a nasty aroma. Photo by Chris Dawson/BayToday.

There's an unusual and unpleasant spring smell that you probably recognize. 

It's a musty, stinky smell that usually catches your sense of smell in the early spring - especially near your wet yard or field. It is an unpleasant odour that makes you check the sole of your shoe to see if you stepped in doggie do-do.  

Well, don’t blame man’s best friend or any mysterious garbage that reveals itself during the spring thaw.

That unusual aroma is something called “Geosmin” which literally means Earth smell.

Bronya Cuddy Gregg/North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority

"What happens is bacteria in healthy soil produces “Geosmin,” and it’s released into the air, it’s a chemical that’s found naturally in algae rich waters and healthy soil," explained Broyna Cuddy Gregg, formerly of the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority.  

"That smell is a smell that humans are very sensitive to. We can smell 5 parts per trillion for instance and if you put one drop of pure geosmin – the chemical – into an Olympic size swimming pool humans would be able to detect it." 

Whether you enjoy it or not, that Geosmin smell isn’t exclusive to Northern Ontario – it’s a smell that can be found everywhere in Canada.

And mask or no mask - for many of us - that really stinks.


Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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