New research indicates that Mount Vesuvius' magma chamber is slowly traveling upwards, suggesting that the volcano may not be as hazardous as previously believed.

Vesuvius most famously destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii in a cataclysmic eruption in 79 AD. The blast was so violent that it covered Pompeii in  nearly 100 feet of ash. If Vesuvius erupted today, it could kill up to 700,000 people in southern Italy, including the residents of Naples.

The location of Vesuvius' magma reservoir is a major consideration for estimating the dynamics of the molten rock, which helps researchers predict how strong the volcano's next eruption will be.  A team of scientists, led by Bruno Scaillet of the CNRS-Université d'Orleans in France, report in Nature today that they analyzed rocks from four major explosions to estimate the temperature and pressure of the magma chamber over time. Their results suggest that Vesuvius' pool of magma has risen about 10 km (6 miles) in the past 20,000 years.

(Image from NASA.)