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February 7, 2024

Meet the five USGS scientists who served as coordinating lead authors for the Fifth National Climate Assessment. 

The Fifth National Climate Assessment is the most comprehensive analysis of the state of climate change in the United States. The report, released November 14, 2023 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, provides critical information for decision-makers and highlights key advancements in understanding current and future climate change impacts in the U.S.

The report marked the culmination of a four-year process in which more than 30 scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey worked alongside academic, private sector and federal scientists. 

Our scientists' contributions to the report highlight the breadth of our climate science expertise and our critical role in supporting climate science across the country. The USGS has contributed to every report since the first report was released in 2000.

Keep reading to learn more about the five USGS scientists who served as coordinating lead authors for different chapters of the report. In this role, each scientist worked to help shape topics for their chapter and ensure the information presented was consistent with other chapters. 

Shawn Carter 

A man with short brown hair and a blue button up shirt standing in park.

Coordinating lead author for the Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity chapter 

Carter, who worked on this chapter for two previous iterations of the report, is the senior scientist for the National Climate Adaptation Science Center

He saw his previous experience in contributing to the chapter as an opportunity to take on a leadership role on the chapter’s author team for this latest report. 

As a coordinating lead author, Carter liked having the opportunity to bring people from diverse disciplines, backgrounds and perspectives together to help shape the chapter. 

Carter’s expertise includes ecological monitoring and assessment, forest ecology and species-habitat relationships. He hopes that readers will take note of the mitigation and adaptation opportunities that can be used to protect, manage and restore ecosystems from climate change impacts. 

“This go around, we were able to highlight advances in things like natural capital accounting and ecosystem services,” he said. “My hope is that this chapter will give readers insight into some of the nature-based solutions out there that we can use to help tackle the climate crisis.” 

Li Erikson 

Li Erikson is posing for a picture in Alaska. Li has blond hair and is wearing a beanie, sunglasses, and a coat.

Coordinating lead author for the Northwest chapter 

Erikson is a research oceanographer at the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. She was motivated to pursue this role to have an active role in developing a report that synthesizes critical climate information. 

Erikson enjoyed being involved in the large effort to develop the report, which brought together more than 700 contributors. 

She hopes that readers will take note of the significant risks from climate hazards, such as heatwaves, that are being observed in the Northwest region. 

“Livelihoods based on forest industries, commercial fisheries, tourism and snow-based recreation are increasingly at risk from climate impacts, but adaptation actions taken now can support regional resilience,” she said. 

Mari-Vaughn Johnson 

A woman with long dark, braided hair wearing a blue floral shirt smiles for her picture while in a park.

Coordinating lead author for the Hawaiʻi and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands chapter 

Serving as a coordinating lead author gave Johnson, the regional administrator of the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center, the opportunity to work closely with scientists involved in the climate change adaptation space in the Pacific region. 

One of Johnson’s highlights was working with her author team and the author team of the Caribbean chapter to draw attention to the climate-related data inequities that continue to impact both regions.  

The author team of this chapter incorporated Indigenous knowledge and cultural values from across the Pacific region, which Johnson hopes readers will be aware of. 

“[The Pacific] is an amazingly diverse blue continent bound by the seas that connect us. The people in the Pacific continue to inspire me and give me hope that we can create a better future together,” Johnson said. “Considering that the Pacific Islands are suffering some of the most significant impacts of climate change of any region in the U.S., I think that the level of hope and commitment to adapt is really important to capture and I hope that resonates throughout our chapter.” 

Adam Terando 

Photo of Research Ecologist, Adam Terando

Coordinating lead author for the Earth Systems Processes chapter and author for the Overview chapter 

Terando, a research ecologist with the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, enjoyed having the opportunity to learn from and work with scientists from diverse disciplines. This was his third time contributing to the report. 

The author team of the Earth Systems Processes chapter highlighted scientific advancements that have reduced uncertainties related to global warming, which is why Terando hopes that readers will gain a better understanding of the author team’s confidence in their predictions. 

“We now have a better handle on exactly how much warming we would expect for a given amount of greenhouse gases that get put into the atmosphere,” he said. “Just within the last several years, new science has come out and we have now narrowed that range. This is really useful for understanding the consequences of emitting fossil fuels and greenhouse gases.” 

George Xian 

George Xian

Coordinating lead author for the Land Cover and Land Use Change chapter 

As a research physical scientist with the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, Xian had the opportunity to use his expertise to implement critical information that helped the chapter’s author team better understand the impact that climate has on land. 

Xian and his author team introduced a new data set with long-term land cover change information to make a connection with climate change impacts.

He hopes that readers will understand how climate change can affect land.

“Climate change has increased the intensity and frequency of weather events. This poses a risk to our land systems,” Xian said. “Readers need to be aware of and pay attention to this change because we depend on our land systems to provide goods and services.”

USGS scientist Brad Reed also served as a coordinating lead author for this chapter before his passing.

Learn more about the Fifth National Climate Assessment

USGCRP is hosting a series of webinars through March for author teams to summarize the content and key findings of a chapter. Click here to check out the webinars that have already taken place.

To read the full report, visit

Eighteen of the report’s 32 chapters have contributions by USGS scientists that served in a variety of roles, in addition to our coordinating lead authors.

Paul Wagner served on the Federal Steering Committee for the report, assisted by Susan Aragon-Long.  Chapter lead authors from the USGS are Jeff Falke, Glenn Guntenspergen, Rudy Schuster, Hilary Stockdon and Kathryn Thomas. USGS scientists who participated as chapter authors are Aparna Bamzai-Dodson, Patrick Barnard, Lucas Berio Fortini, John Bradford, Amy East, Carolyn Enquist, Eric Grossman, Julie Kiang, Olivia LeDee, Erika Lentz, Jeremy Littell, Sasha Reed, Karen Ryberg, Marie Schaefer (now with the Environmental Protection Agency), Ben Sleeter and Curt Storlazzi. USGS staff listed as technical contributors to several chapters are Kristen Alkins, Jordan Kazemi, Heather Kerkering, Dennis LaPointe, Katherine Malpeli, Hua Shi and Vanessa Von Biela.

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