Have you ever walked outside on a cold, winter day and inhaled a crisp, biting breath of air? Think about it. It smelled somewhat different than if you did the same thing on a warm day, right?

cold smell

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There are a few reasons why, beyond the obvious difference of seasonal sources of smells.

According to olfactory scientist Pamela Dalton with Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center, one thing that’s going on is slower movement of odor particles. This is because cold air is denser than warm and there are thus fewer smells making it to your nose on cool days, Discovery News reported.

Another reason we smell less in cold air is because our noses don’t work as well. Research at the scenes center has found that receptors “bury themselves a little more deeply in the nose in winter,” Dalton told Discovery News.

Then there’s your brain influencing your perception, coaxing you into smelling what you think you should be.

“What you think a smell will be impacts whether you like it and what you perceive it to be,” psychiatrist and neurologist Alan Hirsch told Discovery. “So, if you go outside in the winter and you are used to smelling snow or chestnuts in the fire or whatever you happen to smell outside, that’s what you will interpret smells to be.”

All these factors coupled with that you’ve likely been cooped up inside smelling indoor smells — cooking, candles, wood-burning fires — makes the contrast of outdoors smells seem that much more stark.

“Homes are closed up, windows are closed. We concentrate the smells of cooking and living,” Dalton said.

Featured image via Shutterstock.