(republished on 07/13/06)
Although there's oxygen in water, in equilibrium almost none of it is present as O2. That's very familiar from the behavior of water nowadays. Even when heated to boiling, water doesn't decompose and give off O2.
I don't know how much O2 is produced when lightning hits water. Evidently, it's not much. You can directly read the oxygen status of the early atmosphere off rocks by looking at how much the iron deposits were oxydized. O2 concentrations were very low before photosynthetic bacteria started producing it.
Lightning does do interesting things to atmospheric chemistry, however. It's said to make NO2. It also makes ozone (O3). My new ozone meter, purchased to test whether the filter on an possible air-conditioner purchase would be safe, just went nuts a couple of days ago, right before a storm.
p.s. I just read the same NYT article.
(published on 09/17/13)