Here we examine climatic influences on inter-annual variation in latewood tree growth (i.e. ring-width indices, RWILW) and stable-carbon isotope discrimination (Δ13CLW) from 1950 to 2013 at two SNOTEL snowpack monitoring sites in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. Douglas-fir and mountain hemlock trees were sampled at the lower and upper elevation sites where annual peak snow water equivalent (SWE) averaged 467 and 1128 mm, respectively. RWILW chronologies were poorly correlated among sites/species (r = 0.23, P = 0.063) and neither exhibited strong correlations with monthly or seasonal climate variables. By contrast, Δ13CLW chronologies were significantly correlated (r = 0.69, P < 0.001) and exhibited stronger climate responses. Multiple regression analyses identified summertime maximum temperature (Tmax) and/or vapor pressure deficit (VPD) as the primary drivers of Δ13CLW. Secondary influences included summertime precipitation, specific humidity, cloud cover, and SWE from the previous fall and winter. Overall, our findings suggest that Cascade mixed conifer forests will become increasingly drought stressed as rising temperatures cause progressively diminished snowpacks. Moreover, our Δ13CLW records also provide a proof of concept showing strong potential to expand summertime Tmax reconstructions to other snowy, montane locations.
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