Over twenty modeling groups are participating in the Air Quality Model Evaluation International Initiative (AQMEII) in which a variety of mesoscale photochemical and aerosol air quality modeling systems are being applied to continental-scale domains in North America and Europe for 2006 full-year simulations for model inter-comparisons and evaluations. To better understand the reasons for differences in model results among these participating groups, each group was asked to use the same source of emissions and boundary concentration data for their simulations. This paper describes the development and application of the boundary concentration data for this AQMEII modeling exercise. The European project known as GEMS (Global and regional Earth-system Monitoring using Satellite and in-situ data) has produced global-scale re-analyses of air quality for several years, including 2006 (http://gems.ecmwf.int). The GEMS trace gas and aerosol data were made available at 3-hourly intervals on a regular latitude/longitude grid of approximately 1.9° resolution within 2 "cut-outs" from the global model domain. One cut-out was centered over North America and the other over Europe, covering sufficient spatial domain for each modeling group to extract the necessary time- and space-varying (horizontal and vertical) concentrations for their mesoscale model boundaries. Examples of the impact of these boundary concentrations on the AQMEII continental simulations are presented to quantify the sensitivity of the simulations to boundary concentrations. In addition, some participating groups were not able to use the GEMS data and instead relied upon other sources for their boundary concentration specifications. These are noted, and the contrasting impacts of other data sources for boundary data are presented. How one specifies four-dimensional boundary concentrations for mesoscale air quality simulations can have a profound impact on the model results, and hence, this aspect of data preparation must be performed with considerable care.