These investments profit from fear rising on Wall Street

A woman carrying an umbrella walks past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.
John Taggart | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A measure of market volatility is finally starting to rise as traders spooked by the latest geopolitical headlines buy protection from a drop in the .

The traded above 15 and neared the 16 level Tuesday, reaching its highest point since November in the wake of the election. It was below 11 earlier this month, capping off a multimonth period of tranquility.

Investors are growing increasingly worried about President Donald Trump's next moves involving the Syria and North Korea situations. Fear of a possible government shutdown later this month is also putting traders on edge.

But history shows some exchange-traded funds thrive when tensions rise on Wall Street. If the VIX was to follow the same trajectory and climb 5 points to 20, some ETFs should post gains. Using hedge fund analytics tool Kensho, CNBC PRO found almost 40 occasions when the VIX climbed 5 points in one month's time.

These are the top-performing ETFs, on average, during those tumultuous months.