MCCS 522: Statistical Downscaling of Global Climate Models using SDSM 5.2

Participants work through an exercise in SDSM during the 2015 course.

Participants work through an exercise in SDSM during the 2015 course.

Global Climate Models (GCMs) indicate that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases will have significant implications for climate at global and regional scales. Less certain is the extent to which meteorological processes at individual sites will be affected, yet these potential changes at smaller scales are exactly what engineers, consultants and land managers are most concerned with. Statistical downscaling techniques are used to bridge the spatial and temporal resolution gaps between what climate modelers are currently able to provide (low resolution, course-scale data) and what impact assessors require (high-resolution, fine-scale data).

The Statistical DownScaling Model (SDSM) is a freely available software tool that facilitates the rapid development of multiple, low-cost, single-site scenarios of daily surface weather variables under present and future climate forcing. SDSM is the most ubiquitous statistical downscaling software used in the scientific literature with over 200+ studies in over 39 countries. This course trains on the use and application of this freely available decision support tool for assessing local climate change impacts using a robust statistical downscaling technique, taught by professionals currently using this technique in their own research. The course will be of interest to researchers, managers, planners, engineers, consultants and students interested in applying global climate model scenarios at the local scale to inform impact assessment, planning and risk-management.

Through a combination of lectures, case studies and guided computer work, the course covers the following topics: an introduction to downscaling techniques (dynamical, weather typing, stochastic weather generators, transfer functions); getting started with SDSM 5.2; quality control and data transformation; screening of downscaling predictor variables; model calibration; weather generators; analysis of observed and downscaled data; frequency analysis; scenario generation; graphing monthly statistics; time series analysis; and SDSM file protocols. Participants will begin the course by developing their own long-term climate dataset for their region of interest from observations. During the second day, participants will then develop scenarios of future climate change for their region of interest using output from the 40 global climate models (GCMs) used in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5). Three full days will then be spent learning SDSM, culminating in a case study project where participants will complete a downscaling-based project from start to finish. Time will be provided for participants to give short presentations on their current work to get feedback from other participants and instructors. The course will be led by Dr. Adam Fenech, Director of the Climate Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island; Dr. Robert Wilby, Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling at Loughborough University and co-developer of the SDSM software; and Christian Dawson, co-developer of SDSM and Computer Scientist at Loughborough University.

Flooding causes a road wash-out.

A road wash-out caused by flooding.

By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • access, quality control, and statistically analyze climate data;
  • prepare scenarios of future climate change through ensemble and validation techniques;
  • download and use the SDSM 5.2 software to create a statistical model of climate observations for a region of interest;
  • create site-specific hi-resolution scenarios of future climate change; and
  • understand applications of statistically-downscaled model results.


Prerequisites: Participants should be very familiar with the use of spreadsheets in MS Excel and the manipulation of data in the program.



Future dates for this course have not been confirmed.


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia

Application Procedure

We are not currently accepting applications for this course. Check back here for updates.

Course Costs

The total cost for this course is $1,781  (Course fee of $1400 + Housing and Dining Package of $381). Those applying as citizens of “less-developed” nations qualify for a reduced course fee of $850, making the total cost, including housing (shared double room) and dining package, $1,231. Click HERE to check if your country of citizenship qualifies you for the reduced course fee. Your total course payment includes:

  • Registration fees
  • Instruction, course manual, textbooks and other course materials
  • Pick-up and drop-off at Dulles International airport, and transportation for course activities
  • Daily full-service buffet at the SMSC Dining Commons – Dining begins with dinner the night before the course begins and ends with breakfast on Saturday after the course ends.
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost) – Lodging at this facility begins Sunday before the course begins and check out is Saturday after the course ends.


Scholarships are available on a competitive basis for eligible applicants. Click HERE for more information on scholarships.


With course coordinator’s written approval in advance of registration/payment, local participants may elect to stay off campus, waive the housing and dining package, and commute to this course. Meals in the Dining Commons can then be purchased individually as needed.

For more information