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Good Question: What makes one hurricane season more active than another?

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - Forecasters predicted there would be an above average hurricane season in 2017.

So far, the season has lived up to its billing with almost three full months still left in the season.

There have now been two major hurricanes in the last two weeks.

First, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Gulf coast of Texas as a Category Four storm. Right now, it's the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history.

While Texas struggles to recover, Hurricane Irma is churning through the Caribbean with her sights set on Florida.

So what are the ingredients that add up to make one hurricane season more active than another?

That's a good question.

"There are numerous factors that influence tropical storm formation and tropical storm intensification," Hope Mizzell, Ph.D. said.

Mizzell is the state climatologist at the South Carolina Climatology office.

She says two of those dominating factors are warmer ocean surface temperatures and weaker upper level winds, or wind shear. More powerful upper level winds can knock down the possibility of a hurricane.

But, right now, those two factors are combining for a dangerous mix.

"What we've seen this hurricane season, especially in the last few weeks, is that we've had weaker than normal wind shear, decreased wind shear and that's why we've seen these storms develop and intensify rather rapidly," Mizzell said.

Whether a storm makes landfall doesn't necessarily determine if a hurricane season is an extremely active one.

As an example, Mizzell points to Hurricane Hugo, which was the last major hurricane to impact South Carolina when it hit the state as a Category Four storm in 1989.

It was a devastating storm, but didn't happen in what was considered an active season in the overall picture.

"By the numbers, that was an average season. We had an average number of hurricanes that formed. We had an average number of major hurricanes that formed," Mizzell said. "But, by no means was that an average season for South Carolina. So you have to put that in perspective."

Whether a hurricane season is active or not, the key takeaway from weather experts and emergency management officials is - always be prepared.- Have a plan in place to keep you and your family safe.

Every year, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division generates the South Carolina Hurricane Guide that includes valuable disaster readiness information that could save a life.

You can click here to download the guide.



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