Seasonal Climate Signals in Multiple Tree-Ring Parameters: A Pilot Study of Pinus ponderosa in the Columbia River Basin

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Matthew Dannenberg, Erika K Wise and Jocelyn H Keung, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
Proxy-based reconstructions of past climate have played an integral role in assessments of historical climate change, and tree-ring widths (TRW) have a long history of use in this paleoclimate research due to their annual resolution, widespread availability, and sensitivity of growth processes to variation in temperature and water availability. Increasingly, studies have shown that additional tree-ring metrics—including earlywood and latewood widths (EW and LW, respectively), maximum latewood density, and the intensity of reflected blue light from latewood (BI)—can provide additional information on seasonal climatic variability that is not present in TRW alone due to different processes that affect growth in different parts of the growing season. Studies of these additional tree-ring metrics highlight their utility in climate reconstructions, but to date they have mostly been limited to a few tree species and regions. Here, we extend the range of previous studies on alternative tree-ring metrics by evaluating the seasonal climate signals in TRW, EW, LW, and BI of Pinus ponderosa at six semiarid sites surrounding the Columbia River basin in the U.S. Pacific Northwest (PNW). Cores from each site were cross-dated and EW, LW, and TRW were measured using standard dendrochronological procedures. BI was obtained using a high-resolution flatbed scanner and CooRecorder software. To evaluate the unique climate processes and seasonalities contributing to different dendrochronological metrics, monthly temperature and precipitation from each site were obtained from the PRISM climate model and were correlated with each of the tree-ring metrics using the MATLAB program SEASCORR. We also evaluate the potential of using multiple tree-ring metrics (rather than a single proxy) in reconstructions of precipitation in the PNW. Initial results suggest that 1) tree growth at each site is water-limited but with substantial differences among the sites in the strength and seasonality of correlations between precipitation and tree-ring metrics, and 2) EW tends to be more dependent on conditions in the prior growing season while LW tends to be related to water availability early in the current growing season. Results from this study illustrate the potential utility of multiproxy dendroclimatology for paleoclimate research.