Interannual above-ground production patterns are characterized for three tundra ecosystems in the Kuparuk River watershed of Alaska using NOAA-AVHRR Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data. NDVI values integrated over each growing season (SINDVI) were used to represent seasonal production patterns between 1989 and 1996. Spatial differences in ecosystem production were expected to follow north-south climatic and soil gradients, while interannual differences in production were expected to vary with variations in seasonal precipitation and temperature. It was hypothesized that the increased vegetation growth in high latitudes between 1981 and 1991 previously reported would continue through the period of investigation for the study watershed. Zonal differences in vegetation production were confirmed but interannual variations did not covary with seasonal precipitation or temperature totals. A sharp reduction in the SINDVI in 1992 followed by a consistent increase up to 1996 led to a further hypothesis that the interannual variations in SINDVI were associated with variations in stratospheric optical depth. Using published stratospheric optical depth values derived from the SAGE and SAGE-II satellites, it is demonstrated that variations in these depths are likely the primary cause of SINDVI interannual variability.