Warming-amplified drought stress may decrease productivity and growth in both wet and dry conifer forest ecosystems. However, the seasonal radial-growth responses to climate, drought and related climate atmospheric patterns have not been compared in detail in wet and dry sites. We focus on drought-prone northern Mexico conifer forests and compare growth responses in tree species from wet (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and dry sites (Pinus leiophylla). To characterize the responsiveness to inter- and intra-annual changes in water availability we used dendrochronology and measured tree-ring (TRW), earlywood (EW) and latewood (LW) widths. We calculated adjusted LW (LWadj) by removing the influence of EW on LW. We identified E- (narrow tracheids within the early-wood) and L-type (wide tracheids within the latewood) intra-annual density fluctuations (IADFs) and related their frequencies to seasonal climate and drought. We also related growth to atmospheric patterns related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which drives precipitation patterns in the studied region. Wet-cool conditions during the prior winter and current spring linked to El Niño events enhanced TRW and EW, particularly in P. menziesii, whereas wet summer conditions enhanced LWadj. The formation of E- (P. leiophylla) and L-type (P. menziesii) IADFs was associated with seasonal fluctuations in precipitation and temperature, suggesting different strategies to withstand drought. The sensitive P. menziesii strongly responded to short spring droughts, whereas the tolerant P. leiophylla responded to longer spring droughts. Seasonal wood measures (EW, LWadj) and IADFs are proxies of intra-annual fluctuations in water availability in similar conifer forests.