WHEN I first heard the news reports of a cloud of ash preventing air travel in the UK, I thought it was something that would be over pretty quickly.
It's not the kind of event you expect to experience: a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland which prevents air travel, one of the most popular modes of transport, across a large part of Northern Europe.
As the days have gone on, the cloud has had a dramatic effect on the ways in which we live our lives and conduct business – people trying to leave for their holidays, those trying to get home, business travellers missing important meetings and companies wanting to import or export through the UK.
The effects of the disruption are now being felt across the globe with fresh produce in Africa being unable to get to market with a consequent loss of local jobs.
The UK's Meteorological Office, often maligned for its predictions in a notoriously difficult field, is now getting the opportunity to study an atmospheric phenomenon which occurs very rarely in Britain.
They are working with other weather reporting bodies in the UK and across Europe to examine the effects of the cloud as it passes over the continent and to estimate when air travel will return to normal.
The Met Office is also working with universities, borrowing their meteorological monitoring equipment to help them track the movements and predict where the ash will go next.
Private companies with their own technology are also contributing their findings to the effort.
Airlines are carrying out test flights to gather information on the concentration of the ash and the danger posed by it.
This information is being used by aviation engineers to develop temporary solutions to the effects of flying through ash.
While the events of the last week have been difficult and gruelling for many, they have also presented those in the science and technology industries with a chance to work with each other on a unique project – one with benefits for the scientific community and the travelling public at large.
The information gathered by meteorologists and scientists in the UK and Europe will be used in other parts of the world when an eruption like this occurs in the future.
In an age where collaboration is made easy by technology, we should grasp such opportunities.
It will be interesting to see what effect this event will have on people's attitudes to air travel and the implications for the 'green' agenda.