On Monday, the so-called VIX — a measure of market expectations for near-term volatility in the S&P 500 — spiked 20.01 points, or 115.6 percent. The S&P 500, meanwhile, shed 4.1 percent Monday, its biggest one-day decline since 2011.
To put Monday's move in context, the S&P 500 declined at least 4 percent or more in a single day 32 times since 1990. On those occasions, the VIX has risen an average of 7.8 points.
Put another way, the VIX points change Monday was 2.5 times the average for an S&P 500 drop of that size.
The latest spike in volatility could point to a big problem on Wall Street, some traders believe. Trading algorithms and levered fund products may have separated this market from past historical patterns, causing moves to be exaggerated.
Carl Icahn told CNBC on Tuesday that these products will do greater damage to the market if left to grow unchecked.
"These are just the beginnings of a rumbling" and one day the market will "implode" because of these derivatives, the investor said.
The Dow fell nearly 1,600 points on Monday before closing down 1,175. CNBC's Jim Cramer called the nearly 1,600-point drop a "flash crash."
"The market just broke again," Cramer said. "We haven't seen it break in a long time."
— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.