East Coast summer stench

Anyone who has endured a nasty, hot summer in a Northeast/Midatlantic city (New York, Washington and Philadelphia for me), knows that it always reaks on a hot, humid summer day. I won’t go into details regarding the odor of the NYC subway. But why? Does it smell more (i.e., does garbage and other refuse degrade differently in the heat?)? Or do odors linger longer (i.e., does hot, humid air somehow hold odors for a longer period of time?)?

Most biological and chemical processes occur faster at higher temperatures (for the bio ones, there are limits) and higher degrees of humidity. So, it smells more in the summer because the wind has less time to drag the stink away from the ground (the wind speed is important, too). Also, cold air has an anesthesizing effect on your nose, so you can’t smell as well when it’s cold.

And you continue to live there why?

It’s the fetid stench of ten million hopes and dreams forever crushed beneath the cruel iron foot of the Big City.

Because it’s still better than Wisconsin.

per friedo

Ouch! a lump well deserved i guess. I have no right to judge where any one else calls home. My apologies.

I think that the summer heat can also release odors pretty much unique to summer, like the smells of acres of tar roofs and hot pavement (with its unseen but accumulated deposits of motor oil, antifreeze, bird droppings, dogpiss, and who knows what else) after they’ve been cooking under the midday sun, and especially after a brief rainburst, when the smell can be very strong. The base of the smell is almost certainly some sort of release of volatile chemical compounds from the (petroleum based) pavement, tar, driveway sealants, and so on… but I’m not sure exactly what’s happening to create that wave of smell after a bit of rain.