A model inter-comparison of secondary pollutant simulations over urban areas in Japan, the first phase of Japan's study for reference air quality modeling (J-STREAM Phase I), was conducted using 32 model settings. Simulated hourly concentrations of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which are primary pollutant precursors of particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5), showed good agreement with the observed concentrations, but most of the simulated hourly sulfur oxide (SO2) concentrations were much higher than the observations. Simulated concentrations of PM2.5 and its components were compared to daily observed concentrations by using the filter pack method at selected ambient air pollution monitoring stations (AAPMSs) for each season. In general, most models showed good agreement with the observed total PM2.5 mass concentration levels in each season and provided goal or criteria levels of model ensemble statistics in warmer seasons. The good performances of these models were associated with the simulated reproducibility of some dominant components, sulfates (SO4 2-) and ammonium (NH4 +). The other simulated PM2.5 components, i.e., nitrates (NO3-), elemental carbon (EC), and organic carbon (OC), often show clear deviations from the observations. The considerable underestimations (approximately 30 μg/m3 for total PM2.5) of all participant models found on heavily polluted days with approximately 40-50 μg/m3 for total PM2.5 indicated some problems in the simulated local meteorology such as the atmospheric stability. This model inter-comparison suggests that these deviations may be owing to a need for further improvements both in the emission inventories and additional formation pathways in chemical transport models, and meteorological conditions also require improvement to simulate elevated atmospheric pollutants. Additional accumulated observations are likely needed to further evaluate the simulated concentrations and improve the model performance.
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